Police receive reports of over 200 sexual exploitation crimes in six months

Over 200 child sexual exploitation crimes have been reported to Cleveland Police in six months. Officers from the Paedophile Online Investigation Team (POLIT) are warning youths of the dangers of speaking to people on the internet after receiving hundreds of child sexual exploitation reports since the beginning of the year.  POLIT Sergeant Kev Carter said: “The POLIT team is made up of specialist officers who are dedicated to protecting the children in our communities from those who pose a great risk to them through online offending.

“This team deals with extremely complex and sensitive enquiries and it is fair to say that people would be horrified if we were able to talk fully about the things that we deal with. A lot of our work takes place out of the spotlight away from the public eye to protect the innocent people involved. “Protecting children is what drives every member of my team.

The difficult truth is that many people are not fully aware of what truly goes on online between their children and internet strangers.  “Between January and June this year, 208 online child sexual exploitation crimes were reported to Cleveland Police, and with more and more children using the internet on various devices, it is increasingly important that we educate children and parents on the dangers. There are dangerous people out there who will not hesitate to exploit young people.

“I would ask that parents keep a close eye on who their children are chatting to online. People can use the internet to their advantage and use the many sources of safeguarding advice to follow the trends and educate themselves on where the risk is. It is important for parents, guardians and teachers to teach children about the dangers of speaking to people online but it is just as important to have open and honest conversations with the children.

“Children need to know not to speak to people they don’t know on different apps and social media pages and not to arrange to meet up with strangers. A lot of offenders pose as younger people to gain trust, form relationships, and eventually obtain indecent images. Once the first image has been sent, the child is entrapped and extremely vulnerable.

“Our job is to catch offenders out and when offences of this nature are identified online, action is always taken to protect vulnerable children. The devastating actions of perpetrators not only cause serious harm to children but they also have a profound impact on the innocent family and friends around them. “As a Force we want to make it clear, if you are caught carrying out online offences against children or sharing indecent images; you will be caught, it is only a matter of time and we will bring you to justice.”

Two weeks ago, following an investigation with the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (NWROCU) and Cleveland Police, a man aged 55 was arrested on suspicion of arranging/facilitating the commission of a child sex offence. The arrest was made in Stockton and the man has been released under investigation pending further enquiries. Last month, a 58 year old man was charged with reportedly attempting to meet a girl under the age of 16 as a result of alleged grooming.

The charges were made following a joint investigation with the North East Regional Operations Unit (NERSOU). He appeared at court on July 31. Children can become victims of abuse on the internet through online games, social networking sites and apps such as Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, which they can access through devices including tablets, mobile phones and games consoles.

To help protect children while they’re online, follow these steps on our website: https://bit.ly/2QvNetS

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