A campaign`s been launched in Peterborough to raise awareness of the potential dangers of online dating.
To tie in with Valentine’s Day today, figures have been released showing the number of people looking for love on the internet is at its peak.
The statistics have prompted Cambridgeshire Police to raise concerns that cases of rape and serious sexual assault may also rise.
DI Kate Anderson, from the force’s Rape Investigation Team, said: “Unfortunately we have had cases of serious sex offences following contact made through online dating sites.
“Through this campaign we hope that we can spread the message that online dating can be a healthy, fun way of meeting people, but it is vital that you prioritise your safety when speaking to strangers.
“While the majority of people using these sites are doing so with honest intentions our experiences show us that there are people on there who display sexual predatory behaviour.
“By taking sensible precautions around meeting in public places and utilising initiatives such as ‘Ask for Angela’ we can reduce the risks around these type of offences.
“We would also ask that if anyone has concerns around the behaviour of someone on these sites that they report them to us. While we absolutely want to prevent people becoming victims we also want to target potential offenders.”
Police and Crime Commissioner, Jason Ablewhite said: “Anyone going on a date needs to be safe in the knowledge that if things are not going well, and you feel threatened in any way, there is help at hand. Saying ‘Is Angela here?’ alerts bar and club staff to the fact that you are feeling uncomfortable and need to get away. They can then order you a taxi or offer a safe place until a friend or relative can come and collect you.
“I would urge everyone to spread the advice provided to make sure dates are the enjoyable occasions they should be.”
The scheme, which was adopted by a number of pubs across the county last year, involves people giving a simple code-word to bar or club staff.