MULTIPLE people have been arrested across the Thames Valley this month after the police paedophile investigations team carried out house raids.
Thames Valley Police (TVP) explained it continues to receive referrals from the National Crime Agency and other law enforcement agencies relating to people suspected of accessing child abuse material online.
In recent weeks, TVP officers have been carrying out warrants designed to combat this activity as well as carrying out safeguarding visits.
Officers from the force’s Paedophile Online Investigation Team (POLIT), have been carrying out the warrants at addresses across the Thames Valley area, arresting people who are believed to be involved in online child sexual abuse and seizing items from their homes.
In addition, they have been carrying out safeguarding visits where children have uploaded child abuse material.
So far this month, TVP has carried out action in relation to 43 referrals with 31 arrests made and 276 items seized. 32 children have been safeguarded as a result.
The activity has been carried out at residential addresses.
Referrals to TVP from the National Crime Agency have risen by 93 per cent in the past 12 months when compared to the same time period in 2018-2019.
With more and more people currently at home and online due to coronavirus restrictions, the POLIT team has worked to combat those who are looking to exploit this to abuse children.
Detective Inspector Jon Axford, of the POLIT team, said: “During the first lockdown last year, there was a well-documented rise in this sort of offending.
“Sadly, we know that there are a number of criminals out there who have tried to take the opportunity afforded to them by the fact that more people are online to sexually exploit children.
“These offenders come from a variety of different backgrounds and situations.
“Many of them have families of their own, who have no idea whatsoever as to their offending.
“These warrants should serve as a warning to anyone who thinks that this sort of offending is harmless and without consequence.
“It isn’t. We know exactly who you are, who you are talking to, and we will come to your house and arrest you, in front of your family and loved ones if necessary.”
He continued: “These warrants are also not a one off.
“We are constantly monitoring the intelligence we receive and we have an extremely good understanding of who is committing this type of offence.
“Online child sexual abuse causes misery to its victims.
“The long-term effects of it are horrendous, and can damage people for life.
“The fact that the abuse is taking place online does not make it any less impactful.
“The message is clear – if you are online abusing or grooming children, you will be caught, you will go on the Sex Offenders’ Register, and you may go to prison.
“You could lose your job, your friends and your family and have to live with the stigma of your offending for the rest of your life.”
TVP work with the Lucy Faithfull Foundation to prevent online child sexual abuse and support the families of those who are identified as offenders.
Their Stop It Now campaign provides free, anonymous and confidential support.
If you are concerned for the safety of a child, call TVP on 101, or the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000.
If you’re concerned about the sexual behaviour of an adult or a child, call 101 or the Stop it Now helpline on 0808 1000 900.