The number of alleged crimes potentially involving people’s use of dating apps Tinder and Grindr increased more than sevenfold in two years – including reports of rape, grooming and attempted murder.
Just 55 reports of crimes in England and Wales mentioned Grindr or Tinder in 2013, according to figures released to the Press Association under the Freedom of Information Act.
This jumped to 204 in 2014 and 412 in the year to October 2015, according to the 30 police forces who gave figures.
There were 277 crime reports in which Tinder was mentioned in 2015 – up from 21 in 2013. And 135 alleged crimes in which Grindr was mentioned were recorded in 2015, up from 34 reported in 2013.
Tinder is used predominantly by heterosexual daters while Grindr is a gay dating app.
Reports of violent and sexual crimes were the most common, with 253 allegations of violence against the person and 152 reports of sex offences, including grooming, rapes and the sexual exploitation of children.
Andy Phippen, professor of social responsibility in IT at Plymouth University, said it was a “growing problem, particularly around sextortion-type activities”.
He said: “If we are going to base the formation of a relationship on a photo and a few lines of text, how do we know that person is who they say they are and they have the right intentions?
“And there will be people who are using these apps to coerce and groom children, sadly.”
An NSPCC spokesman warned that some children are being groomed online.
He said: “Dating apps are, by their very nature, not safe online spaces for children. It’s all too easy for children to say they are older, or for an adult to pretend to be younger.”
The National Police Chiefs’ Council’s lead on violence and public protection, Deputy Chief Constable of Merseyside Police Andy Cooke, said: “The rising popularity of online dating apps and websites has contributed to an increase in the number of recorded crimes.”
The figures come from police reports where the apps are mentioned in the crime report and does not automatically mean the app was used directly by the criminal.
But there have been documented cases in which they were.
Last August, Daniel Edwards and his partner Kristofer Wagner, from Gloucester, were jailed for blackmail after threatening to expose a married man they met on Grindr.
And former teacher Gary Pearce, from Sidcup in Kent, was jailed for five years last September for grooming a 14-year-old boy he met on Grindr.
Grindr and Tinder did not reply to requests for a comment.