More than 60 children have been safeguarded as part of an ongoing operation targeting offenders who view indecent images of children.
Operation Bane, a proactive investigation to tackle online child exploitation, was launched by the Norfolk and Suffolk Constabulary in 2014.
The team work closely with the National Crime Agency, however are not reliant on referrals, and use specialist techniques to detect, identify and risk assess offenders before obtaining search warrants to carry out enforcement.
Since its launch officers have assisted in more than 150 cases for police forces across the UK and, locally, have made more than 200 arrests resulting in a number of successful convictions.
· Man in his 30s was jailed for 12 years in July 2015 for the rape of a girl. He was arrested following information received that indecent images of children were being downloaded at his Suffolk address.
· Man in his 40s from Norfolk was jailed for 18 years in September 2016 after being found guilty of raping, sexually assaulting and taking indecent images of a young girl.
Detective Superintendent Steve Mattin, of the Norfolk and Suffolk Joint Cyber and Serious Crime Unit, said: “Police services across the UK are dealing with an unprecedented volume of child sexual abuse reports, including online indecent images and these numbers continue to rise.
“Indecent images of children can only be created if a child is subject to sexual abuse. Often offenders convince themselves that as the images already exist there isn’t a victim as they don’t have direct contact with the children or young people involved. But these children were abused and exploited to make these images and are further victimised every time those images are viewed.”
Suffolk Police and Crime Commissioner Tim Passmore said: “I find it desperately sad that children in our county are exploited in this terrible, terrible way, it is beyond my comprehension.
“I fully support the Constabulary’s proactive approach to this ghastly crime and am really pleased to see that our investment in the cyber-crime unit has played its part in safeguarding these young victims.
“The pattern of crime is changing in Suffolk and one of the biggest changes is the huge increase of cyber and cyber-enabled crime. This growing technological menace is a scourge in our society so I was delighted to support this extra investment in a dedicated cyber-crime unit for the county, which I understand is one of the best in the country. The unit, which is based in Halesworth, was set up to combat the rising number of cyber-crimes and is responsible for investigating all offences where networked computers or technology have been used to commit crimes and this includes child pornography.”
The scheme runs concurrently with the national campaign, Operation NetSafe, and both Norfolk and Suffolk Constabulary teamed up with a child protection charity earlier this year to further tackle online child sexual abuse images.
Operation NetSafe looks to prevent online child abuse through public awareness of the Stop in Now! UK website and free confidential helpline run by the charity, The Lucy Faithfull Foundation.
Both encourage abusers and potential abusers to seek help by giving adults the information they need to protect children safely. They can also be used by family members and friends of offenders who are concerned about their behaviour.