Staffordshire Police supports national coronavirus online safety push
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Parents, children and young people are being urged to ensure they know how to stay safe online after warnings of an increased risk of child sex offending during the coronavirus crisis.
Following the assessment by the National Crime Agency that there are a number individuals in the UK posing a sexual threat to children, either through physical ‘contact’ abuse or online, Staffordshire Police is redoubling its efforts to educate and safeguard those vulnerable to offenders.
With schools closed, it is inevitable children will turn to the internet not only for educational resources, but for entertainment too. A host of informative and educational products aimed at children of all ages, parents, carers and teachers are available on the Thinkuknow website nationally and in Staffordshire, local messages through social media will provide information and activities easily incorporated into home learning.
The public will also be given the opportunity to ask questions directly to officers from the Child Protection and Exploitation Team (CPET) through a Facebook live, to drive awareness of the issue and to provide practical ways to stop offending taking place.
Detective Inspector Simon Caton from the force’s CPET, said: “It is shocking and saddening to think that criminals are looking to exploit the coronavirus crisis to cause harm online.
“Though we are working around the virus like everyone else, we recognise the importance of teaching parents and children, now more than ever, how to stay safe online.
“The reality is that online abuse can appear in many forms, across any device that is connected to the web. This could be through social media, online chats, online gaming or streaming sites for example. Often children don’t even realise they are being groomed or abused and is therefore crucial parents having regular oversight of their children’s online activity.”
While Staffordshire Police has not seen an increase in reporting around this issue, offenders are being warned that they are being actively sought out and will be brought to justice.
Simon Caton, added: "Over the coming weeks we will be intensifying our enforcement response and will be executing a number of warrants, under operation safenet. We need to be clear to anyone who thinks online abuse is acceptable that it will only be a matter of time before our officers’ knock on the door.”
Mobile-based technology enables officers to set up a digital forensics laboratory in the home of the suspect and examine computers, mobiles, tablets and data storage devices within minutes.