Police forces across the region are warning those who view sexually explicit images of children that they will be caught.
The warning comes after officers from Staffordshire, Warwickshire, West Mercia and
West Midlands were out this morning (Thurs) targeting offenders as part of a
successful day of action.
Under the banner of Operation Safenet, the teams carried out warrants at a number
of addresses across the region.
Three warrants were executed in Staffordshire resulting in three arrests.
A 55-year-old from Stafford; a 52-year-old from Stone and a 30-year-old from
Fenton, Stoke-on-Trent, were all arrested on suspicion of distributing indecent
images of children. They have been taken into custody for questioning.
Two men, aged 25 and 39, were arrested in Coventry in the West Midlands on
suspicion of possession of indecent images.
One arrest has taken place in Telford (Warwickshire and West Mercia). A 62-yearold
was arrested on suspicion of possession of indecent images.
The regionally adopted operation aims to safeguard children by detecting abuse and
prosecuting offenders for the possession and distribution of indecent images of
This approach was pioneered in Staffordshire during the summer of 2015 before
being launched across the other three forces earlier this year. It brings together
police officers and highly skilled digital forensics staff to proactively seek out those
using the internet to view and exchange these images.
Each week the teams use the latest digital investigative techniques to identify where
illegal images are being viewed, then using this intelligence apply to a magistrate for
a search warrant, to allow the police and digital forensic experts to raid the home to
seize evidence and arrest those involved.
Since it was launched in across the region, the teams have carried out 593
investigations, arrested 353 people for sexual offences and safeguarded 491
DS Steve Chadwick, Operation Safenet lead for Staffordshire Police, said:
“We have done something special with Operation Safenet. Using the latest mobile based technology we set up a digital forensics laboratory in the home of the suspect and examine the computers, mobiles, tables and data storage devices within minutes.
The forensics staff work with the police officers in the address to immediately secure
evidence for a prosecution and help build the case so a quick decision can be made
in terms of charges and putting the suspect before the courts.
“This triage approach to the evidence means we can immediately take action to
prevent further offences and importantly take action to protect any children at risk.
“I want those using such images to really think about their actions, often they think
there isn’t a victim because they might not have any direct contact with the children
in the images, but those children are victims of abuse and were abused to make
With colleagues across the region, we will continue to tackle this issue
and take enforcement action to protect children until we know children are safe.”
Operation Safenet teams run within each force throughout the region to manage and reduce the threat, risk and harm posed by online child abuse and they are supported by police staff experts in digital forensics.
Working closely with the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the team use an
internationally recognised system to gather intelligence we are already achieve a far
faster charging decision, often within four weeks of conducting the raid the suspect
appears in court.
Regional interview opportunities here since it was launched in Staffordshire the team have carried out 332 investigations with 151 warrants, arrested 134 people and safeguarded 210 children. The team’s work has also led to 93 people being charged and going through the court process or been convicted of sexual offences.
And following the same positive approach, West Midland’s officers have carried out
117 warrants, arrested 100 people and safeguarded 91 children.
Officers from Warwickshire and West Mercia have carried out 144 investigations with
119 people arrested and 27 charged. They have safeguarded 190 children.
More detail on each force’s approach to Operation Safenet can be found on their
Definition of Child Sexual Exploitation.
‘Sexual exploitation of children and young people under 18 involves exploitative
situations, contexts and relationships where young people (or a third person or
persons) receive ‘something’ (e.g. food, accommodation, drugs, alcohol,
cigarettes, affection, gifts, money) as a result of them performing, and/or another
or others performing on them, sexual activities.
Child sexual exploitation can occur through the use of technology without the
child’s immediate recognition; for example being persuaded to post sexual
images on the Internet/mobile phones without immediate payment or gain.
In all cases, those exploiting the child/young person have power over them by
virtue of their age, gender, intellect, physical strength and/or economic or other
Violence, coercion and intimidation are common, involvement in exploitative
relationships being characterised in the main by the child or young person’s
limited availability of choice resulting from their social/economic and/or emotional