Police in West Sussex have reminded people to be careful when engaging with others on social media dating sites.
The warning follows six separate reports received by police during December 2016, in which police say men engaged in online conversation with contacts they believe to be girls or boys under 16, and have arranged to meet. Each one is being investigated and in three of the cases men have been arrested on suspicion of attempting to meet under-16 children following grooming. No children were actually involved in any of the cases. The arrests were made in Burgess Hill and Crawley.
Detective Inspector Rachel Carr said; “Each case is under active investigation, but we remind everyone of the dangers for them. It is also important to say that we do not encourage members of the public to carry out investigations themselves.”
The three men arrested by police, aged 40 from Horsham, 53 from Horsham and 49 from Peacehaven, are currently on police bail while enquiries continue, until May 24, March 28 and June 11, respectively. A 35-year-old Horsham man has been arrested on suspicion of robbery and attempted blackmail in two of the other cases, and he is currently on police bail until March 27 while enquiries continue. No other arrests have been made in those cases. The sixth case is still under investigation.
Det Insp Carr added: “Anyone else who has information about such activity is asked to contact us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org quoting Operation Abbotstone. You can also report online here or call 101.
“Alternatively you can contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”