T

he number of online child sexual abuse cases referred to one UK police force alone has risen 93% in two years.

A similar size rise has been seen nationally, with the number of cases referred by the NCA to police forces doubling between 2018 and 2020.

The figures went from 8,110 in 2018, to 11,451 in 2019 to 16,651 in 2020.

Investigators say predators have taken advantage of more children being online amid restrictions linked to the pandemic.

Offenders include people with families of their own, who are often oblivious to what they have been doing, the force said.

Officers from TVP’s Paedophile Online Investigation Team (Polit) have carried out a series of raids on suspects as well as visits to children groomed into uploading indecent images of themselves.

This month the team has carried out action linked to 43 NCA referrals with 31 arrests and 32 children safeguarded.

A Thames Valley Police officer gathers evidence during a search in Bracknell this month

Detective Inspector Jon Axford from the Polit team, said: “During the first lockdown last year, there was a well-documented rise in this sort of offending.

“Sadly, we know that there are a number of criminals out there who have tried to take the opportunity afforded to them by the fact that more people are online to sexually exploit children.

“These offenders come from a variety of different backgrounds and situations. Many of them have families of their own, who have no idea whatsoever as to their offending.

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