A top Renfrewshire cop has insisted clamping down on cyber crime will continue to be a major focus for police in the area as he highlighted a surge in the number of sexual offences occurring online.

Chief Superintendent Alan Murray revealed there were 106 sexual offences recorded between April and June this year – 40 per cent of which were cyber-enabled.

Last year, only 26 per cent were online-driven during this period, which would indicate more people are becoming victims of this type of sexual crime in Renfrewshire.

Ch Supt Murray – who spoke about the figures during a virtual meeting of Renfrewshire Council’s police and fire scrutiny sub-committee – told elected members there had been a number of upsetting incidents over the past few months and officers were working hard to try and drive down incidents.

He said: “There were 106 sexual offences recorded and 40 per cent of these crimes were cyber-enabled compared to 26 per cent in the previous year, so that gives you an idea of how these crimes are developing onto cyber space.

“There’s some really upsetting crimes with people being extorted and blackmailed. Sometimes there are ways to combat that with a bit of knowledge and we’re trying to make sure potentially vulnerable people are aware of that.”

It was also revealed during the meeting there were 105 cyber crimes recorded in Renfrewshire during 2019/20, which Ch Supt Murray said is an increase on the number last year.

Reported offences included internet order fraud, online credit and debit card fraud and threats to post intimate images of people on social media.

Papers presented to the sub-committee also revealed a global surge in online fraud during the Covid-19 pandemic, as criminals have exploited the uncertainty of the situation for financial gain.

Ch Supt Murray added cyber crime was creating major difficulties for officers, but cops are striving to make people aware of its threat.

“There was a real increase in cyber-related fraud, which brings its own problems,” said Ch Supt Murray told elected members.

“It’s more complex to investigate, sometimes these are being run from abroad, and it can take a while to track down IP addresses etc for devices that have been used to perpetrate these frauds.

“I wouldn’t pretend it’s anything other than difficult. The force is putting a lot of effort into making sure our detection rates are as high as possible.

“Cyber crime and bogus callers will continue to be a focus. A lot of cyber crime can be avoided if people just follow guidance about being absolutely sure about websites and phone numbers. That’s not to blame the people themselves for being victims of crime – the fault lies with the perpetrator – but it is something we’re trying to get out.

“Nearly all cyber crime involves some element of carelessness from the victim or lack of knowledge, so we’re trying to get as much information out about that as possible.”