Online threats assessed

The CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection) Centre has released
its first year figures and detailed national threats from child sex
offenders.

Jun 28, 2007
By David Howell
Neil Corbel

Officers working with the CEOP during its first 12 months of operation have rescued 76 children in the UK from sexual abuse environments. Also, the arrest of 83 child sex offenders and the dismantlement and ­disruption of three major international ­paedophile rings — all with UK connections — illustrate the successes that the CEOP is having in the fight against child sex abuse.

In all, over 2,500 reports have been made to the CEOP Centre since its launch in April 2006. During the same period, the organisation has made around 1,000 ­disseminations — many with multiple suspects — to local and international forces.

In a groundbreaking approach for the UK, the CEOP Centre has delivered ThinkUKnow education training to over 750,000 UK school children with sessions looking at Internet safety. One million will have attended by the end of the academic year.

The CEOP Centre is unique in that within one organisation police officers specialising in tackling child sex abuse are working with staff seconded in from major corporations such as Microsoft and leading ­children’s charities, including the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to ­Children (NSPCC).

Its mandate, first and foremost, is child protection: Enpower, Protect, Enforce. This includes using a multitude of resources to focus on high risk, high impact offenders.

A totally holistic approach is now being delivered, including award-winning safety sessions for children (ThinkUKnow), ­specialist training for child protection professionals (1,500 attended last year), through to the development of safer by design ­initiatives (Report Abuse button within MSN Messenger) and ultimately the investigation and arrest of offenders (with 36 major ­operational deployments during the year).

The CEOP Centre’s approach is now being studied by a number of countries with international visitors from law enforcement, government, child protection and industry from as far away as South East Asia, ­Australia and other parts of Europe.

Jim Gamble, Chief Executive at the CEOP Centre, outlines the centre’s first year ­successes: “Back in April 2006 when we launched the CEOP Centre, I said that we would change the Internet from the anonymous place that some offenders thought it would be.

“I outlined how we would provide young people with a direct and dedicated Report Abuse function where they could report deviant activities within a few clicks of a mouse and I said that we would ­publish details of registered offenders on a website if they failed to fulfil the ­consequences of their convictions.”

He continued: “These figures speak for themselves. What they mean is that any offender ­looking to groom a child today online stands a good chance of grooming an undercover officer instead. If not that, then that offender may be speaking online to one of the 750,000 children we have now educated through ThinkUKnow and who know how to spot deviant behaviour and how to report it to us. Now that is a ­massive deterrent.

“Not only that, but we have turned technology on to those who often look to exploit it to access and exploit children. We have the online Report Abuse mechanism — now receiving an increasing number of reports from young people under the age of 18 years — and we have gone further by posting details of missing offenders online.

“In addition, five of the first eight ­individuals posted on Most Wanted (ceop.gov.uk/wanted) have been located and arrested.

“This is just one year of activity — our very first year. Now we move on. We have to look at the scale of this issue as  in only one operation alone over 1,000 lines of enquiry relating to UK suspects were passed to us from our U.S. counterparts. That is a massive task not only for the CEOP Centre, but for UK policing in general, and we will do all we can to keep our ­collective foot firmly down on the pedal as we motor forward.

“But we don’t move forward blindly. Far from it! Today we also launched our fi

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