IN the last 12 months, Lancashire Constabulary’s Online Child Abuse Investigation Team (OCAIT), a specialist team of detectives and staff who work around the clock to keep children safe, has investigated 529 crimes and safeguarded 744 children.
Working closely with the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (NWROCU), the National Crime Agency (NCA) and other nationwide forces, the OCAIT team is committed to identifying and arresting those who offend online, using the internet as a place to exploit children by grooming them and distributing indecent images.
Furthermore, in collaboration with NWROCU, the team investigate those offenders who actively engage online with undercover officers posing as children.
This often leads to ‘meets’ where offenders agree a meeting place with an undercover officer only to be intercepted by arrest teams.
Every day, the team gathers information on potential suspects and build comprehensive files of evidence which will help to bring them to justice.
As a result of this work, 55 child sex offenders have been prosecuted in the last year and the team have not had a single failure at court.
The team sifts through data taken from computers, hard drives and phones which have been seized from suspects and, using state of the art technology, work to identify victims of sexual abuse.
They then work with local authorities across Lancashire to enable victims to be safeguarded appropriately.
Inspector Rachael Ashcroft, who leads the OCAIT team, said: “Protecting children is our top priority and something that each member of the team is absolutely passionate about. Each time an offender views or distributes an image of child sexual abuse, that child is victimised once again.”
Lancashire Constabulary is working closely with the Lucy Faithfull Foundation.
They provide a free helpline (0800 1000 900) for offenders and their families, helping offenders to stop and help their family members to spot the signs and seek advice.