Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Essex Police welcomes Home Secretary as figures show it is top force for tackling online child abuse

“ESSEX is no place to hide for sexual offenders and those who abuse children” – that’s from one of their top officers as figures show Essex Police is ranked top for dealing with online child abusers.

Last year, their Police Online Investigation Team (POLIT) made more than 600 arrests or suspect interviews for these offences and secured 424 charges – the most of any force anywhere in the UK.

In the last 12 months the team also solved 92 percent of the 450 investigations they carried out.

Essex Police has the third highest conviction rate for sexual offences which make it to court, while last year they also safeguarded more than 2,500 children from sexual crimes.

Assistant Chief Constable Kevin Baldwin said: “Nothing is more important than protecting our children from harm and dangerous, predatory offenders.

“Our POLIT officers are prolific in doing that, arresting and charging more offenders than forces in some regions put together.

“They’ve achieved this by downloading, reviewing, and grading every image on every device they seize.

“The guidelines set out by the CPS state this isn’t necessary and a sample of images can be used to secure a charge but such is the diligence and dedication of our team, they insist on reviewing every image to ensure they identify any possible victims, so they are safeguarding, protected and offenders get locked up for as long as possible.

“This ensures they’re kept off the streets and our children are kept safe.

“And the team are trained to examine the devices themselves, speeding up investigation times, and progressing investigations quicker than most other forces.

“It means Essex is no place to hide for sexual offenders and those who abuse children.”

ACC Baldwin added: “As well as POLIT, we also have teams dedicated to ensuring we identify and intervene with children at risk of child sexual exploitation (CSE) including CSE Proactive Investigation Team, which investigates complex cases, and the Proactive Order Enforcement Team which ensures orders preventing offending are adhered to.

“But this is not an issue we can tackle alone. It’s why we work with schools and colleges to educate young people about the risks of CSE and online abuse, and work with partners to identify and safeguard those vulnerable or at risk of it.

“This close working with schools and partners means we can identify any emerging concerns and intervene because we recognise that proactivity is essential in identifying CSE offending and to target offenders directly.

“And our specialist child abuse detectives provide training to front line uniform officers about how to spot the signs of CSE to ensure we’re well placed to identify issues early and deal with them.”

The figures come as the Home Secretary, the Right Honourable James Cleverly MP, visited their force to mark the one-year anniversary of the national CSE Taskforce.

The Taskforce was established in April 2023 to enhance the policing response to group-based Child Sexual Exploitation and abuse. 

Its aim is to increase the confidence of victims and survivors, and the wider public, in the police approach to tackling CSE.

On the taskforce, ACC Baldwin said: “We have worked with CSE Taskforce on key investigations such as the prosecution of Jay Lang who was jailed for 21 years last September.

“Lang posed as a 16 year-old girl on social media apps, and abused and blackmailed dozens of children, some aged as young as 11.

“The CSE Proactive Investigation Team secured 46 charges against him and ensured he’s not able to pose a threat to children while behind bars.

“Historically, we have not experienced group-based sexual exploitation but we’re not complacent about this issue, and know there may be things that haven’t been reported to us. 

“If you have any information about a child being sexually exploited – or you have been yourself – I would urge you to contact us. We will protect you.”

Home Secretary, James Cleverly said: “Where a child is being abused, we must do everything in our power to protect them and pursue the perpetrators until they are behind bars.”   

“This despicable crime can have a lasting impact on a child’s life. In only a year, the Taskforce’s hard work alongside local policing efforts has led to more than 550 arrests and helped keep thousands more children safe. I thank everyone that has been involved in this effort.”

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