The national crime Agency (NCA) in the UK says that it has arrested 660 suspected paedophiles in a six month operation.
The NCA today announced the details of the operation, saying that those arrested included doctors, teachers, scout leaders, care workers and former police officers. They added that 400 children had been safeguarded.
Of the 660, 39 people were registered sex offenders, but the majority of those arrested had not previously come to law enforcement’s attention.
The operation targeted people accessing indecent images of children on-line. It has stayed covert till today in order to protect children, identify offenders and secure evidence. The NCA and its partners are not revealing the methods they used to track down suspects so that they can use the same tactics again in the future.
Charging decisions are awaited in most cases because of ongoing enquiries but so far charges brought range from possessing indecent images of children to serious sexual assault.
NCA Deputy Director General Phil Gormley said:
“This is the first time the UK has had the capability to coordinate a single targeted operation of this nature. Over the past six months we have seen unprecedented levels of cooperation to deliver this result.
Our aim was to protect children who were victims of, or might be at risk of, sexual exploitation. A child is victimised not only when they are abused and an image is taken. They are re-victimised every time that image is viewed by someone.
“Some of the people who start by accessing indecent images online go on to abuse children directly. So the operation is not only about catching people who have already offended – it is about influencing potential offenders before they cross that line
“We want those offenders to know that the internet is not a safe anonymous space for accessing indecent images, that they leave a digital footprint, and that law enforcement will find it”.