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16 July 2014, 13:59
A six-month national operation targeting suspected paedophiles, has led to 15 arrests in Birmingham.
It was led by the National Crime Agency (NCA) and was the single, largest operation of its kind to target offenders accessing indecent images of children online.
West Midlands was one of 45 forces across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland involved.
In total 660 arrests of suspected paedophiles have been made nationally and over 400 children across the UK have been safeguarded.
Detective Superintendent Martin Hurcomb from the force’s Public Protection Unit said: "The majority of those arrested were not previously known to law enforcement agencies, certainly in a child protection context, however - they are now, and they will stay in our sights.
"Details of how the suspects were tracked down are not being revealed as we want paedophiles to be uncertain about how we identify them - offenders need to know that the internet is not a safe anonymous space for accessing indecent images.
As well as 15 from across Birmingham, West Midlands Police also arrested eight from Sandwell, six from Dudley, one from Solihull, two from Walsall, two from Wolverhampton and seven from Coventry.
They were arrested on suspicion of possession of indecent images of children. One man has been charged with making an indecent image of a child and all the others arrested are currently on police bail while enquiries continue.
In addition, 18 children in the West Midlands have been safeguarded by officers following the inquiry.
NCA Deputy Director General Phil Gormley said: "This is the first time the UK has had the capability to co-ordinate a single targeted operation of this nature.
"Our aim was to protect children who were victims of or might be at risk of, sexual exploitation. A child is victimised not only when they are abused and an image is taken. They are re-victimised every time that image is viewed by someone."
"Some of the people who start by accessing indecent images online go on to abuse children directly. So the operation is not only about catching people who have already offended- it is about influencing potential offenders before they cross that line."
If anyone has concerns about a child or young person or if you are a child or young person and someone has asked you to do something that makes you feel uncomfortable either on or offline, you can report through the CEOP safety centre at www.ceop.police.uk. To speak to someone in confidence you can contact Childline on 0800 1111 or go to www.childline.org.uk