9 men across Staffordshire have been arrested following online child exploitation investigations by police.
The men whose ages range between 23 and 74 were all arrested in the past week in Stoke-on-Trent, Newcastle, Codsall, Cannock and Leek.
They've all either been bailed with conditions or been released from custody whilst the investigation continues.
The warrants were part of Operation Safenet, which aims to safeguard children by detecting abuse and prosecuting offenders for the possession and distribution of indecent images of children.
Each week the Child Exploitation Team uses the latest digital investigative techniques to identify where illegal images are being viewed, then using this intelligence apply to a magistrate for a search warrant, to allow the police and digital forensic experts to raid the home to seize evidence and arrest those involved.
A 54-year-old man from Leek was arrested on 27 October on suspicion of possessing, making and distributing images of children.
Two men from Stoke-on-Trent were arrested on Monday (30 Oct); a 25-year-old on suspicion of possession of indecent images of children, and a 34-year-old on suspicion of making and distributing images of children.
Two men from Newcastle-under-Lyme were arrested on Tuesday (31 Oct); a 38-year-old on suspicion of possessing, making and distributing images of children, and a 70-year-old on suspicion of accessing indecent images of children.
Two men from Codsall were arrested yesterday (2 Nov); a 37-year-old on suspicion of attempted sexual communication with a child, and a 23-year-old on suspicion of possession and making indecent images of children.
Two men from Cannock were arrested today (3 Nov); a 43-year-old and a 74-year-old on suspicion of possessing, making and distributing images of children.
All of these individuals have either been bailed with conditions or been released from custody whilst the criminal investigations continues.
The team have carried out 690 investigations, arrested 215 individuals and safeguarded 342 children.
Detective Sergeant Jon Heathcote, of the force’s Child Exploitation Team, said: "Operation Safenet was set up in 2015 to proactively tackle those individuals who seek to sexually exploit children over the internet. We work closely with the National Crime Agency, international law enforcement, internet service providers and social media companies to highlight these individuals and bring them to justice.
“We use the latest digital forensic techniques to set up a mobile forensic laboratory in the home of the suspect in order to quickly identify the nature of offending and safeguard children at the earliest possible stage.
“This week of activity has tackled a range of individuals who exploit children over the internet through various means including; distributing indecent imagery of children, seeking to groom children over the internet and those who are actively discussing the sexual abuse of children through online chat platforms. I would like to send a clear message to those individuals within Staffordshire and the wider region, who are looking at indecent imagery of children on the internet or using the internet as a vehicle to sexually exploit children in any form; that you will be identified and brought to justice.
“I would also like to urge parents or carers of children who have access to the internet, to ensure they are aware of their child’s online activity in order that they are kept safe whilst using the internet. For further information please access www.thinkuknow.co.uk.”