Police issue warning to child sexual abusers in Thames Valley amid rise in reports over lockdown

George Roberts

Police issue warning to child sexual abusers in Thames Valley

A POLIT officer gathering evidence.

Police have been cracking down on online child sexual abusers in the area and warned that offenders ‘will be caught’.

In the last few weeks, Thames Valley Police’s Paedophile Online Investigation Team (POLIT) has arrested 31 people, seized 276 items and safeguarded 32 children as part of its efforts to combat online child sexual abuse.

The team have arrested people they believe are involved in online child sexual abuse and have been carrying out safeguarding visits where children have uploaded child abuse material.

Detective Inspector Jon Axford, of the POLIT team, said: “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.”

The POLIT team have made 31 arrests in recent weeks.

Despite his team’s recent success, the POLIT officers are determined to carry on their work, and are pursuing intelligence every day to help bring more paedophiles to justice.

“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.

“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.

Lockdown has seen an increase in offenders accessing child abuse materials online, with the POLIT team seeing a 93 per cent increase in referrals from the National Crime Agency in the last year.

Dozens of children have been safeguarded as a result of POLIT's work.

Despite the increase, the team has stepped up to protect children in the area and bring justice to abusers.

“During the first lockdown last year, there was a well-documented rise in this sort of offending,” said DI Axford.

“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.

Lockdown has seen a rise in reports of online child sexual abuse.

If you are concerned for the safety of a child, call Thames Valley Police 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.

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