Concerns raised over increase in drug overdoses during pandemic
And police are warning of a spike in abuse with schools closed and youngsters spending more time on the internet.
Chief Constable Simon Bailey, the National Police Chiefs’ Council’s lead for child protection said: “It is sickening to think that some criminals are looking to exploit the coronavirus crisis to cause harm online.
“Despite the issues that the pandemic will cause for law enforcement, child protection is still a priority and we remain totally committed to keeping our young people safe.”
It comes after the NSPCC warned that children stuck at home using the internet during lockdown creates a ‘perfect storm’ for offenders to abuse online.
The National Crime Agency’s latest national strategic assessment report, published today, reveals there are around 250,000 UK-based user accounts on the worst child abuse websites on the dark web – up from around 140,000 last year.
And the NCA said some 94,342 UK residents contacted the Lucy Faithfull Foundation child protection charity to report themselves or someone close to them who was sexually attracted to children in 2019 – up from 43,000 the previous year.
Susie Hargreaves, chief executive of the Internet Watch Foundation, a UK charity involved in finding and removing child sex abuse images and videos from the internet, said: “This is a terrifying escalation of the threat to our children.
“These numbers are unlike anything before. It’s a genuine threat to our children right now.”
She added: “It is horrifying to think sexual predators are viewing the coronavirus crisis as an opportunity to exploit a captive audience of children, who are spending more time at home on their devices.”
Rob Jones, NCA’s director of threat leadership, said: “Though we are working around the virus like everyone else, we are continuing to pursue high-risk online offenders to ensure they are arrested and children are safeguarded.”
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