A UNIT dedicated to stopping online child sexual exploitation and the sharing of indecent images of children has carried out 16 positive warrants in the five months since it was established.

A Police Online Investigation Team (POLIT) was set up as part of the Digital Communications and Cyber Crime Unit at Dyfed-Powys Police in March, in response to a growing concern of offenders committing crime online.

The team is made up of digital media investigators, forensic examiners, intelligence officers and analytical staff, who begin a case by collating intelligence from various sources about those suspected to be carrying out offences online.

Detective Sergeant Mathew Davies, of POLIT, said: “We are working closely with partner agencies in both the UK and US to identify offenders operating online viewing and sharing indecent images of children. I would like to warn people living in the Dyfed-Powys Police force area that we are proactively targeting those who carry out such activities, and the next knock at the door could be officers from my team.”

As well as police officers, digital forensic investigators attend search warrants to examine mobile phones and computers at the property.

DS Davies said: “Having experienced digital forensic investigators present at these warrants enables police to carry out examinations at the premises. This process of triage has resulted in police identifying early evidence on suspects’ devices and prevents the seizure of partners’ or children’s devices, which can leave families inconvenienced for lengthy periods. Having this evidence prior to interview can also result in suspects entering an early guilty plea.”

The nature of the cases investigated by POLIT involve considerable intelligence-gathering from various sources, the interrogation and analysis of data, identifying offenders and working with other police departments and partner agencies.

DS Davies added: “The implementation of the POLIT team at Dyfed-Powys embraces the need for improved digital working and makes a substantial contribution to the efficiency of bringing those offenders who commit this type of crime quickly to justice.

“The investment made by Dyfed-Powys Police in POLIT and the DCCU is recognition of the changing nature of crime. Offenders are increasingly using the internet and technology to harm children. If people choose to engage in this type of hideous and despicable crime then they can expect that

specialist police officers will detect their activity. The implementation of the team embraces the need for improved digital working and makes a substantial contribution to the efficiency of bringing those offenders who commit this type of crime quickly to justice.

“Safeguarding young people and vulnerable persons is a priority for Dyfed-Powys Police and we would urge anyone with information about offences involving children to contact us.”

One of the partners POLIT works with is the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, which aims to prevent the sexual abuse of children by working with protective adults. The foundation believes that changing offenders is one of the best ways of protecting children, and police suggest that offenders contact them for intervention in managing their behaviour.

Tom Squire, clinical manager at child protection charity The Lucy Faithfull Foundation and Stop it Now! Wales, added: “There is no justification whatsoever for looking at sexual images of anyone under 18. Anyone who does needs to know that what they are doing is a serious crime and causes great harm to the children in the pictures. So we very much welcome the scaling up of police work in Dyfed-Powys to tackle this serious and growing crime.

“If we are serious about tackling this growing problem, we also need to prioritise work to prevent this crime from happening in the first place. That’s why we offer confidential support and advice to stop people looking at indecent images of children, and to stay stopped.

“People can access this help on a completely anonymous basis – either via our Stop it Now! Helpline on 0808 1000 900, or via the Stop it Now! website.”

Sentencing of Ian David Croker, Narberth, on Friday, August 18:

A recent POLIT investigation resulted in a man being sentenced to 30 months in prison, just one month after a warrant was carried out at his home.

On Wednesday, July 12, POLIT officers and Pembrokeshire CID carried out a warrant in Stepaside, Narberth. A triage of devices at the scene quickly identified indecent images of children on a laptop belonging to 42-year-old Ian David Croker (DOB 29/10/1974). The entire examination and analysis of Croker’s mobile and laptop was completed within 24 hours, revealing there were 275,676 images and 6,220 videos in total. By carrying out an extrapolation of the initial amount of images identified, it was estimated that 42,222 indecent images would potentially be contained on the drive, with a large number being the most severe Category A.

Tenacious work by the Digital Forensic Investigators identified videos on Croker’s phone and laptop, which indicated that he had also been recording males using public toilets in various locations. CPS advice was obtained and Croker was charged with possessing indecent images of children and voyeurism. On Friday, August 18, 2017, Croker pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 months in prison.

DS Davies said: “We welcome this sentence and are pleased the court saw the offence as serious enough to warrant an immediate term of imprisonment. We hope this will reinforce our commitment to eradicate all forms of child abuse and relentlessly pursue those in our communities who perpetrate such acts.”

Sentencing of Michael Nathan Cohen, Kidwelly:

There have been occasions where officers conducting a warrant have discovered suspects in the process of viewing indecent images, and others where the offender has made an effort to delete or hide the files.

The home of Michael Nathan Cohen, of Monskford, Kidwelly, was deliberately targeted during the early hours of June 27 as intelligence showed that was when he was more likely to be committing an offence. It proved correct, as Cohen was viewing a video when they entered his house.

DS Davies said: “Officers attended the address and caught the offender watching a child abuse film at that time. This has happened on more than one occasion, when we have carried out the warrant at a specific time and the offender has been caught in the act.

“It is important to realise that downloading and watching indecent images and films is not a victimless crime. This has a huge impact on the young people involved, as well as the families of those offending.”

Anyone with any information about someone they suspect is viewing or downloading indecent images or videos of children is urged to contact Dyfed-Powys Police on 101. If you are Deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired, text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

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