SOCIAL media and ‘sexting’ has led to a surge in sex crimes in North Ayrshire, according to the town’s top cop.

The number of sex offences reported between April and December last year is up by 10.8 per cent on the same period the previous year - a total of 175 crimes, according to the North Ayrshire Police Performance Report.

Chief Inspector Brian Shaw says one of the reasons for the spike is down to social media websites such as Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp which enable people to send lewd messages to others.

He said: “The reason for the rise in the figures is, I think, three-fold. You have the social media element, the historic sex crimes which are only now being reported and the domestic element.

“Firstly, we are seeing an increase in crimes being committed on social media sites which is something we didn’t have a few years ago.

There is a lot of people who send illegal pictures on social media so that has contributed to the figures seemingly increasing.”

The report also shows an increase of 3.7 per cent in ‘overall dishonesty’ crimes, which Chief Inspector Shaw, again attributes to social media.

He said: “There are all these ‘buy and sell’ pages which just make it easier for people to be conned, so that has contributed to dishonesty crimes.”

Despite the figures, Chief Inspector Brian Shaw says the increase is actually a positive reflection of his force.

He said: “We also have a situation where 43 per cent of sex crimes across Ayrshire are what we call ‘non recent’ so those crimes have not taken place this year.

“There are more and more people coming forward to report historic sex crimes. Some date back a few years, others much further back. In fact, in the last couple of months we have had a report of a sexual assault which happened in the 1960s, which is incredible.

“I think we can take that as a positive that people have such faith in the police service that they feel confident enough to come forward and report these things.

“Then we have domestic sex assaults. If someone reports their partner for a sexual assault we will interview them, but we will also look in to that person’s relationship history and interview as many previous partners as we can to find out if there has been a pattern of behaviour. This can obviously lead to an increase in the number of sex crimes reported against that person.

“The reality is there has actually been a steady rise in the number of sex crimes reported over the last few years. it averages at about five more crimes a year.”

All other crimes detailed in the report, including common assault, domestic abuse, violent crimes and disorder complaints, have all reduced.