Police’s alert over online abuse
05 June, 2020 — By Bronwen Weatherby
A NEW police team investigating online child sexual abuse has warned it expects a spike in cases after lockdown ends.
Four suspects were arrested last month by the Online Sexual Abuse Unit (OCSAE) for Islington and Camden, one of 12 teams which have been embedded in areas across London since January. Eight devices, including mobile phones, laptops and tablets are being examined.
The teams, which deal with cases ranging from the online grooming of children to individuals who are uploading or downloading child abuse images online, have warned of an increased threat posed by the growing amount of time both children and adults are spending online since lockdown.
OCSAE head, Detective Inspector Louise Caveen, told the Tribune her team is braced for a spike in cases post lockdown but the true extent of the offending will not be known for months to come.
Authorities are aware traffic to porn sites has soared during the pandemic and campaigners have been concerned about the amount of abusive images of children that may have been downloaded.
“The arrests are an example of why the unit was set up and we’re only just starting to see the results of our proactive work coming to fruition,” DI Caveen said.
“This is not a nice job but it’s an important one and our officers are extremely dedicated to what they do. Our priority is always to protect children so if we get a referral we immediately find out if there are any children living at the address of the person suspected of downloading images and we move quickly to execute warrants.”
Five children have been safeguarded in recent operations.
“We are expecting a spike in referrals in September as pupils head back to class and children tell trusted teachers about incidents which have happened during their prolonged time off at home,” said DI Caveen.
“But, we are ready to deal with it and in the meantime we continue to work on referrals we’re getting from the National Crime Agency (NCA) who work with American intelligence services to identify people using large servers to upload child abuse images.”
DI Caveen added: “Make sure you know what your children are doing online. You might not be interested in tech but your child will be so it’s important to keep checking parental locks are still working and keep abreast of the latest apps and social media platforms.”
There has been a 130 per cent increase in online child abuse offences recorded by the Met from 2016 to 2019.