CRIMES committed across social media platforms have more than doubled in recent years across East Lancashire.

New figures obtained by the Lancashire Telegraph show that in Blackburn with Darwen, Burnley, Hyndburn and the Ribble Valley, crimes logged across social media platforms such as Facebook, Tinder and Grindr have increased significantly year on year since 2014.

The offences range from drug trafficking, threats to kill, exposure and voyeurism, stalking, blackmail and harassment.

Detective Inspector Andy Horner, who heads up Lancashire's Digital Media Investigations Unit, explained the force were working harder than ever to tackle online crime.

He added that the numbers didn't necessarily mean there has been an increase in the number of offences being committed.

He said: "There are a number of factors to take into account when considering why these figures reflect a rise.

"It could be down to the fact that the public have an increased confidence to report issues to us where in the past victims of these kinds of crimes have declined to report, put it down to experience or blamed themselves.

"Alternatively it could be due to changes in the way we record crimes, and how we have made it simpler to report a crime online.

"Perhaps the simplest explanation is the fact that more individuals are using technology and adopting social media."

The figures, which were obtained by a Freedom of Information request, revealed that in 2018, the total number of crimes recorded by police across Blackburn with Darwen was 252, with only 110 logged in 2017 and 85 in 2016.

It was a similar story in Hyndburn, where 189 offences were recorded on the platforms in 2018 compared to 79 in 2017 and 42 in 2016.

The borough with the lowest numbers across the board was the Ribble Valley, where only 27 social media crimes were logged in 2018 - still a stark rise on the year previous when only 11 were recorded.

The most commonly committed web crimes across all of East Lancashire in 2018 were related to harassment, malicious communication of sexual offences.

Detective Inspector Horne added: "We are dedicated to tackling digitally enabled crimes and in Lancashire we have recently introduced a dedicated Cyber Crime Team.

"Their job is specifically to target the four Ps of cyber crime, to prevent, protect, prepare and pursue. Cyber crime is a local and national priority, but is poorly understood and consequently generally feared."