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More than 40 police forces -including Dorset and Hampshire - have been involved in raids as part of an operation targeting suspected internet pedophiles.
Several people have been arrested in the raids which have taken place over the last 48 hours in the operation led by the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop).
A spokeswoman for Ceop said there have been two days of ''operational activity'' involving more than 40 forces across the UK.
''There have been a number of warrants that have been executed and a number of arrests that have been made,'' she said.
In Hampshire four warrants were executed in Waterlooville, Gosport, Chandlers Ford and Petersfield with four men being arrested on suspicion of distributing indecent images of children.
· A 54-year-old man from Gosport
· A 43-year-old man from Waterlooville
· A 55-year-old man from Petersfield
· A 49-year-old man from Chandlers Ford
The warrants involved a total of 25 officers from Hampshire Constabulary’s Public Protection and other specialist departments and were led the Paedophile and Online Investigation Team.
Head of the POLIT Detective Inspector Victoria Dennis said:
“The joined up approach of police across the country is a warning to anyone who thinks that they can get away with taking, viewing, downloading or distributing indecent images of children.
“Every image is evidence that a child somewhere in the world is suffering abuse. Sharing these images and encouraging others to abuse children is a crime.
“This is an international problem and it’s important that local police forces work together with national and international agencies to address it.
“Hampshire Constabulary is dedicated to protecting the most vulnerable people in our communities and is investing significantly into a modern and well-resourced Public Protection Department.
“My officers work tirelessly to safeguard children by identifying and arresting suspects, examining computer and other data storage equipment and bringing offenders to justice.
“If you’ve been involved in this type of offence, whether as a victim or an offender, you can seek help. If you’ve been the victim of abuse, speak to police on 101 or 999 in an emergency.
“If you have concerns or suspicions about someone you believe is abusing children or sharing indecent images, you can call police on 101 or 999 in an emergency.”
In Dorset, two arrests were made during the two day operation. In a statement they said:
The safety of children is a priority for Dorset Police and a total of 48 arrests were made in Dorset for possession of indecent images between 1 April 2011 and 31 March 2012.
Dorset Police Detective Superintendent Sara Glen said:
“Keeping children safe from harm is a priority for us every day of the year.
“We did not increase our level of policing activity for this national operation – we have dedicated staff and officers constantly working hard to keep children safe in Dorset.
“I would like to use this operation to remind parents and guardians of simple measures they can take to help ensure their children remain safe.
“It is so important that parents and carers ensure that their children are aware of what constitutes a healthy relationship. It is important for parents and carers to have a relationship with their children whereby if any inappropriate activity was taking place,their child would inform them about it.
“In addition, I would encourage parents and carers to be aware of what their children are doing online and ensure appropriate parental control settings are in place. The internet is a great tool, but it presents some major risks to children if theyare free to use it unsupervised.
“The CEOP website www.thinkuknow.co.uk has lots of usefulonline safety advice to help keep children safe.”
Serious sexual offences in Dorset reduced by 24% last year compared with the previous year.
Detective Superintendent Glen continued:
“Whilst we are pleased with the reduction in serious sexual offences in Dorset, we are not complacent to the challenges ahead.
“Preventing, reducing and bringing offenders to justice requires a collaborative plan with our partners within the health service, the local authority and the charity and voluntary sector, as well as other statutory partners within the Crown Prosecution Service and Probation.
“This year we are mapping the true extent of child sexual exploitation, and not just relying on police information, so that we can improve our intelligence sharing and focus our investigations and broader support services.
“In addition, we are delivering education and raising awareness within schools through our Safe Schools and Communities Team in relation to healthy relationships and signs to watch out for regarding potential exploitation of children.”
Yvonne Surman, Safe Schools and Communities Team Manager,said:
“Since its launch in September 2011, over 6,000 young people aged between 15 and 18 have taken part in our Night to Remember personal safety presentation across Dorset.
“The presentation is hard hitting and really drills home our key messages to young people about the dangers of alcohol and how to stay safe if they are going out at night.
“Also, from April 2011 to March 2012, over 20,000 young people and 4,000 adults have taken part in our internet safety education programmes.”
The Child Sex Offenders Disclosure Scheme was introduced in Dorset on 1 October 2010.
Under the scheme, a parent, guardian or third party can make an application to find out if there is information which they need to know about in order to protect a child in their care.
If there is a need to pass information to someone in order to allow them to better protect a child, then the police will disclose to whoever is in a position to use, or need, that information.
Detective Superintendent Glen continued:
“The Child Sex Offenders Disclosure Scheme is another tool at our disposal to help keep children safe in Dorset.
“A total of seven disclosures were made in Dorset between 1 April 2011 and 31 March 2012 through this scheme, with 67 requests for disclosures being made during this period.
“I would urge anyone who has concerns about the welfare of their children to come forward and talk to us..Members of the public can apply for information by completing an online contact form on the Dorset Police website or by calling 101.”
Dorset Police has a dedicated child abuse investigation team who work closely with children’s services andother partners. In addition, we have a dedicated offender management team which works closely with the Probation Service to manage registered sex offenders within the community.
Operation Protect is Dorset Police’s approach toreducing serious violent crime and sexual offences in Dorset.
Last year’s Operation Protect work contributed to some significant reductions (24%) in allegations of sexual offences, particularly in Bournemouth town centre, and the success of the campaign was recognised with a national award. The Force continues to deliver Operation Protect work across Dorset.