Crimes involving dating apps have doubled in some parts of the UK, a BBC 5 Live investigation has revealed.
Using data from 23 of the 43 police forces in England and Wales, BBC 5 Live Investigates found that the number of reported dating app crimes has risen from 329 in 2015 to 658 in 2018.
Of the 658 crimes reported in 2018, 286 were of a sexual nature, a BBC 5 Live producer confirmed to Refinery29. This represents a significant rise from the 156 crimes of a sexual nature reported in 2015.
BBC 5 Live Investigates' programme "The Dangers of Online Dating", which airs on Sunday (14th April), includes an interview with Debbie Smith, whose daughter Katherine was murdered in September 2017 by a man she had met on a dating app six weeks previously.
The murderer had previous convictions for domestic violence, and Debbie Smith tells the BBC: “They [the dating platforms] should double-check people before they let them onto these sites, it’s so easy. If Katherine had known he had a criminal record, she wouldn’t have gone out with him.”
However, a representative for the Online Dating Association tells the BBC that it's not feasible for apps to do criminal record checks on every user.
George Kidd, chief executive of the Online Dating Association, adds: “A third of relationships start this way and 10 million people use them in the UK. It’s part of our social fabric, [so] we want to celebrate it and make sure it’s safe.”
The Get Safe Online website offers extensive advice on how to stay safe when using online dating apps.
"Going on a date with someone new is an exciting step in a relationship, but continue being careful," the website advises. "Even if you feel you have become closer to someone via email and phone, you should still remember that this person is largely a stranger to you. Therefore it is important that when meeting someone in person, whether it is your first or fifth date, you take precautions."
"The safest plan is to meet somewhere public and stay somewhere public," the website adds. "Make your own way there and back and don’t feel pressured to go home with your date. If you feel ready to move to a private environment, make sure your expectations match your date’s."
If you have experienced sexual violence of any kind, please visit Rape Crisis or call 0808 802 9999.