Operation to tackle online child abuse carried out
Met police officers arrest more than 30 suspected online child abusers and protect 100 children during a recent week of action. During the operation, officers arrested 31 people, seized more than 300 exhibits and executed 91 search warrants.
The week of activity was carried out by officers dedicated to tackling Online Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation (OCSAE). In January 2020, the Met doubled the number of officers and police staff dedicated to tackling OCSAE and there are now more than 200 specialist officers lending their expertise to cases across London.
Officers will now have to examine tens of thousands of child abuse and exploitation images on phones, tablets, and laptops as part of their investigations. As technology and social media has advanced and become more accessible, offenders are also using these platforms with a degree of anonymity to target young people. The scale of growth in these offences, coupled with the constant need to adapt to new technology, has meant this is a challenging area for all forces including the Met.
However, everyday officers are identifying people involved in online child abuse offending using a range of proactive tactics, bringing forward prosecutions, and protecting vulnerable young people. Officers work closely with other forces, the government, partner agencies and the technology industry to act quickly on referrals, remove indecent images, catch perpetrators and protect young people at risk.
Detective superintendent Helen Flanagan, of the Met’s Central Specialist Crime team, said: ‘This has been a fantastic effort between specialist investigators and local officers across the Met. I want to urge parents and young people to remain vigilant and educate themselves around the dangers being online can pose, as well as encouraging them to take steps in order to stay safe.
‘We are committed to keeping young people safe and bringing perpetrators of grooming and other child abuse and exploitation offences to justice. During this operation, we worked closely with child protection charity The Lucy Faithful Foundation. They work for hard advising families and preventing, dissuading and rehabilitating offenders. It is great to have such a close relationship with their team.’
In recent years, the Met has seen an increase in the number of child sexual abuse cases with an online element. This increase reflects a rise in demand and is also due to an increase in referrals from other agencies and a more consistent approach to recording offences.
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