North Yorkshire Police has created a new specialist team tasked with bringing more online paedophiles to justice.
Its Online Abuse Team will work across the county to identify and support investigations into online child abuse, focusing on cases referred by National Crime Agency as well as those uncovered by the force's own officers and other forces.
Officers will also provide specialist, expert knowledge and support to other colleagues in North Yorkshire Police who are investigating online child abuse.
It forms part of the Digital Intelligence and Investigation Department which already contains the Cybercrime Unit, Digital Forensics Unit, Mobile Phone Unit and Digital Media Investigators
Detective Inspector Darrin Knight, who heads the department, said: “Technology is constantly changing, making it easier for online paedophiles to view images of abuse. We need to stay one step ahead of them.
"The new team gives us the resources to focus on this priority area of crime and further develop our expertise and knowledge. Combined with the skills of the wider department, we’ll provide a comprehensive and specialist capability across the force."
The team is split across York, Harrogate, Scarborough and Northallerton, close to the force’s Investigation Hubs and Serious Crime Teams so its officers can provide on-the-spot advice and input into ongoing investigations.
It has been created in response to a national pilot study that highlighted recommendations to all forces and which North Yorkshire has adopted.
They are expected to speed up investigation time, improve evidence gathering, and increase the rate of guilty pleas.
“Everyone shares our revulsion at images of child abuse," Det Insp Knight said. "Each image represents a child who has been through the worst abuse imaginable.
"By looking at them, offenders are creating a demand, and we are determined to disrupt that demand and safeguard as many children as possible.”
North Yorkshire's police and crime commissioner, Julia Mulligan said that caring for the vulnerable was one of the four priorities for the force.
"This new team will help ensure victims of some of the worst crimes imaginable are supported and protected, with offenders brought to justice, wherever possible," she said.
"While North Yorkshire is often cast as a safe, rural idyll, these crimes can happen anywhere. It is important parents, carers, teachers and any adult with responsibility for children looks out for the signs of abuse and don't hold back from reporting their concerns. The sooner someone can intervene and make a young person safe the better, and this team can then do the rest."
Where to get advice
Lucy Faithfull Foundation - Free, confidential helpline provides advice and support to people who are sexually attracted to children to help prevent them from offending or re-offending. Visit get-help.stopitnow.org.uk for more details, email email@example.com or call 0808 1000 900.
To report a sexual crime to the police call 101 or 999 if you are in immediate danger.
Childline - 24-hour helpline. Call 0800 1111.
NSPCC - Call on 0800 800 5002 for the online safety helpline or 0800 800 5000 if you are worried about a child.
Supporting Victims - Advice and support. Email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 01609 643100 (weekdays, 8am to 7pm).