A specialist police unit in Cumbria has dealt with more than 200 cyber crimes and almost 165 investigations into online child abuse in the two years it has been set up.
The Cyber Digital Crime Unit (CDCU) is made up of officers specifically trained to stop offenders who exploit vulnerable people online.
This week as part of the force’s Operation MOVIE 2, Cumbria Constabulary want to focus attention on the work of this team.
Its work often provides data for evidence in major investigations and trials, such as the murder of Lee McKnight.
As part of the week, the CDCU team will be inviting the public to send questions in, via the force’s social media accounts, to be be answered in a live event across on Novemeber 25 from 12-2pm.
Detective Inspector Ian Harwood, who is head of the unit, said: “Our specialist officers continue their proactive work to deal with online offending and to help and safeguard those who are exploited.
The unit investigates and pursues offenders, as well as helping businesses and people protect themselves from attack.
Crimes tackled by its officers include online child sexual abuse and exploitation crimes like downloading and distributing indecent images of children, sexual communication with a child and arranging and facilitating child sexual offences. It also covers offences such as hacking, digital fraud and online exploitation.
The unit also forensically examines digital devices which have been seized during police investigations.
DI Harwood added: “Tackling online crime and protecting children and vulnerable adults, including violence against women and girls is of the utmost importance to us. The way criminals who look to exploit their victims operate, has developed with the continuous advancement in technology.
“Many of the crimes we deal with are unseen to the public, with offenders using online technology to contact and groom their victims them into sexual or criminal activity. This is happening behind closed doors, sometimes invisible to friends and family.
The unit is funded directly by Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Peter McCall,.
He said: “We are all aware that technology is advancing rapidly, and so criminals also adapt and are using online methods to target vulnerable and trusting people.
“I funded the Cyber and Digital Crime Unit in Cumbria Constabulary in order to address this threat – and we now have a team of experts to help prevent cyber crime and to catch cyber criminals. The truth is that this type of crime is endemic and we must all help by doing what we can to protect ourselves and our children online.
Anyone who has been the victim of cyber crime can contact officers via the police website or by calling 101. If there is an ongoing situation, dial 999.
Anyone who wants to access support without police involvement can contact Victim Support directly on 0300 303 0157 or the national 24/7 helpline on 0808 1689 111.
If you have been sexually abused or assaulted and do not wish to have police involvement, please contact The Bridgeway Sexual Assault Referral Centre directly on 0808 1186432.
Officers advise anyone who are considering this type of offending to seek help from someone they trust – or contact support agencies include the Samaritans and the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, a charity dedicated to tackling child sexual abuse.
Support agencies can also be found at www.cumbriatogether.com.