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One child a day saved from 'dangerous' online sex offenders in 2019

PUBLISHED: 13:37 31 January 2020 | UPDATED: 13:37 31 January 2020

Essex Police safeguarded 312 children from online sex offenders in 2019, figures have revealed.  Picture: GETTY/ISTOCKPHOTO

Essex Police safeguarded 312 children from online sex offenders in 2019, figures have revealed. Picture: GETTY/ISTOCKPHOTO

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Nearly one child a day was protected from 'dangerous' online offenders accused of making, possessing, and distributing indecent images of children in Essex last year.

New figures show that in 2019, 312 children were safeguarded by the Police Online Investigation Team (POLIT) who work to protect children from the threat of online offenders suspected of producing and distributing indecent images.

The stats show that 240 warrants were executed last year with officers arresting 104 suspects, examining thousands of computers, mobile phones and storage devices in the process.

Detective Inspector Jo Collins leads the team and says the work they do has never been more important.

"The work my team does often takes place away from the public eye but it is absolutely crucial to keeping children safe and, sadly, the online threat to children is growing," she said.

"In November 2018 the POLIT team expanded to target more suspects and since then we've been working hard to put dangerous sexual predators behind bars and prevent them offending again.

"Our investigations have seen us work with law enforcement agencies across the globe as we track networks of paedophiles who are making and sharing images of child abuse."

Officers are advising that taking, viewing and/or distributing indecent images of anyone under the age of 18 is a crime.

Offenders risk a criminal conviction, prison sentence and being put on the Sex Offenders' Register as well as losing their family, friends, job and reputation.

DI Collins added: "The crime scenes we investigate are the devices we seize and the content found on them.

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"Viewing and categorising images is the most distressing part of our work but it's also the most vital.

"Many children suffer physical and psychological harm from the abuse they've suffered, and our intervention is often the first help and support they will have had.

"It's our job to take away the power from the offender and provide a voice for the victim."

Essex Police are advising that anyone who believes they are having inappropriate thoughts and feelings or know someone who does, to seek help from The Lucy Faithfull Foundation or StopSo.

Both are charities that work with people at risk of committing harmful sexual behaviour.

Parents and carers with concerns about the online activity of a young person, can find advice at Thinkuknow and report concerns by visiting here.

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