MORE than 200 children were safeguarded by a specialist online crime team over the past year, it has been revealed.

The Essex Police Online Investigation Team works to protect children from the threat of online offending and targets people suspected of making, possessing and distributing indecent images of children.

Det Insp Jo Collins said: “Accessing and searching for indecent images breeds an illegal market which results in more and more children being victimised and re-victimised.

“Our ultimate aim is to identify and locate child victims, make their suffering stop and bring the offender to justice.”

Last year, online team had to expand because of the growing threat against youngsters.

Between June 2018 and the end of May this year, officers executed 204 search warrants, made 84 arrests and seized more than 1,400 computers, mobile phones and storage devices across the county.

They also helped to safeguard 210 children suspected of being at risk of harm.

Ms Collins said: “Most people join the police to protect the vulnerable and it’s no different for my team.

“Many children suffer physical and psychological harm from the abuse they have suffered and our intervention is often the first help and support they will have had.

“We make that difference by identifying the offender, taking them away from being able to continue the abuse and subjecting them to orders and monitoring to try and prevent them offending again.

“It’s our job to take away the power from the offender and provide a voice for the victim. “

“A traditional crime scene will have DNA and fingerprint evidence. The scene my team investigates is the content of the devices that we seize - these require as much scrutiny as a traditional crime scene.

“Viewing and categorising images is the most distressing part of our work but it is also the most vital.”

“One of my sergeants has been in policing for 19 years.

“Many of those years have been spent investigating some of the most distressing crimes against children.

“He is often asked what keeps him going. His response is he and his colleagues have absolute faith they are making a big difference to the safety of children across Essex and beyond.

“That knowledge doesn’t just keep them going but drives them to work with partners to catch as many offenders as possible.”

Anyone concerned about their online activity or that of a friend or relative can seek help from the Lucy Faithfull Foundation at or StopSo at Both are charities working with people at risk of committing harmful sexual behaviour.