Twelve people have been arrested by Cleveland Police after the force joined 44 forces across England, Scotland and Northern Ireland in a six-month operation targeting people accessing indecent images of children online.
Operation Notarise was co-ordinated by the National Crime Agency, and led Cleveland’s CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection) Team officers to people suspected of accessing child abuse images.
Using the codename Operation Excalibur, Cleveland’s officers executed 11 warrants resulting in 12 arrests. Ninety three hard drives and 41 mobile phones were recovered .
Officers involved also worked closely with colleagues from local children’s social care to ensure 16 children were appropriately safeguarded , which included 5 children being moved to a different address.
The data release comes a day after Cleveland Police and partners within the Local Safeguarding Children Boards launched their Say Something if you See Something campaign which urges people who suspect grooming or other forms of child sexual exploitation to contact police or Crimestoppers.
Detective Superintendent Rob Donaghy said: “Operation Excalibur formed part of the ongoing day to day work of our new CEOP team which provides a co-ordinated, consistent professional approach to investigating online sexual abuse.
“The CEOP team has developed and evolved in the 11 months since its inception, with officers undergoing regular specialist training in order to enable the team to take full advantage of new technical knowledge as it becomes available.
“Officers continually develop their expertise in identifying offenders and, using best practice from experts around the world, we are able to carry out full forensic examination of devices such as laptops, desktop computers and tablets.
“This crime is sadly increasing, with technological developments creating new opportunities for criminals. Locally, figures estimate that 80% of current investigations relate to the possession and distribution of indecent images of children. The remaining 20% of investigations relate to incitement/grooming offences, with a small number of contact offences.
“Our message remains the same. Tackling online abuse and grooming offences remains an absolute priority for Cleveland Police. We will continue to pursue anyone who is or who has been accessing indecent images of children.
“Further, we will support victims in a professional and compassionate manner, with their needs and welfare at the heart of every investigation.”