“Child sexual abuse remains a priority threat for the agency"
Citizens are being told to keep children safe from sexual predators online.
The National Crime Agency (NCA) issued the warning after an assessment showed that there are at least 300,000 people in the UK who pose a sexual threat to children.
The figure comes from intelligence pre-dating the Coronavirus outbreak. However, police warn that there could be a spike during the pandemic.
The NCA believes that there are at least 300,000 sexual predators in the UK posing a threat to children, either through physical ‘contact’ abuse or online.
With most schools closed and children increasingly online, the NCA and National Police Chiefs’ Council are urging children, parents and carers to ensure they know how to stay safe online.
The NCA has subsequently launched a new #OnlineSafetyAtHome campaign through its education team at CEOP (Child Exploitation and Online Protection).
Several informative and educational products will be issued through the agency’s Thinkuknow website and social media channels.
They can be incorporated into homeschooling.
Children face an increased threat from sexual predators as they are spending more time online to do school work.
Since schools closed because of Coronavirus, the number of child safety concerns reported through the CEOP website largely remains the same.
Rob Jones, NCA director of threat leadership, said:
“Child sexual abuse remains a priority threat for the agency at this difficult time.
“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.
“The internet has undeniable benefits to society.
“But it’s also enabled a section of society to commit increasingly horrific crimes against children through grooming, live-streaming and distribution of indecent images.
“Preventing offences occurring is always crucial and now more so than ever when there is masses of online traffic and a possible elevated threat to children.
“We are redoubling our efforts to promote our online safety messages to children, parents, carers and teachers and are working with partners to keep children safe.
“We have long said that we want the tech industry to do more to protect children.
“The advice and activities on our Thinkuknow website are really important and easily built into homeschooling programmes.”
NPCC lead for child protection Chief Constable Simon Bailey 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.
“Our joint work with the NCA means we have better intelligence and are arresting more sex offenders than ever before.
“We will maintain a focus on those who are intent on causing harm to young people and we will strive to bring them to justice.
“I am also continuing the important work with tech companies to make sure they are playing their part to make the internet as safe as possible.
“Equally as important as police action is making sure children have all the information and tools they need to keep themselves safe online.
“The Thinkuknow website is a great place for parents to go for advice and a good way to pass the time whilst children are at home.”
The programme will start by giving 15-minute activities to parents and carers to do with their children. New activities will be launched every two weeks.
Activities will be educational but fun for the target age group.
They will be available for families of children across all age groups and delivered to families through the new delivery methods being used by schools.
The NCA is also releasing COVID-19 specific content through Parent Info, a news feed and website the NCA runs with digital family experts Parent Zone.
More than 6,000 schools and organisations have registered to receive content from Parentinfo.org.
For advice about online child safety visit Thinkuknow.co.uk.
If you are concerned a crime has been committed against a child you should contact your local police.