STAFFORDSHIRE Police have a dedicated proactive online child abuse investigation team, Operation Safenet, to protect vulnerable young people.
The team actively pursue those who present a risk to children online across Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent.
Such is the team’s success that Operation Safenet was adopted across the region and is now a well-established part of everyday policing.
Since its creation in July 2015 officers have been involved with more than 500 incidents: these are made up of criminal investigations, intelligence gathering and safeguarding.
Each week the team uses the latest digital investigative techniques to identify where illegal images are being viewed, then using this intelligence apply to a magistrate for a search warrant, to allow the police and digital forensic experts to raid the home address to seize evidence and arrest those involved.
Since its launch 183 warrants have been obtained from the courts and actioned across the county.
The 532 incidents the team have been involved in have led to 168 arrests, with an additional 41 suspects being interviewed under police caution.
DS Steve Chadwick, from the team, said: “The investigations have led to 106 offenders being convicted with offences against children with a further 58 suspects still being currently investigated.
“My officers have gained significant skills in this area of policing and working with Digital Forensic Experts and the Crown Prosecution Service have been able to present evidence to such a standard that we have achieved a 100% conviction rate at court.
“Furthermore the efforts of my officers have identified 75 suspected offenders who reside out of Staffordshire with this information being passed to colleagues to action.
“Whilst we hope these figures reassure the public that those individuals who pose a risk to children are being rooted out and held to account, without doubt the most important aspect of this work are the children who have been safeguarded as a result of our proactive approach.
“Of those suspects dealt with, 275 children were identified as being in direct contact with the suspect and were therefore referred to children’s services. What we cannot measure, but equally as important, are those children that we have prevented from becoming future victims.”
If you have any concerns about a young person, or wish to report a crime, call Staffordshire Police on 101.
For help and advice see the following websites: