police operation guardians

Cheshire Police teams targeted child sex offenders and vulnerable children as part of a three-day operation in the county.

Operation Guardians saw officers arresting offenders and educating youngsters on signs of exploitation and staying safe online.

The force’s online child abuse investigation team carried out an undercover operation – alongside North West Regional Organised Crime Unit and National Crime Agency – using new digital mobile forensics van to check offenders’ devices.

Officers also visited vulnerable children who repeatedly go missing to understand underlying issues and triggers.

Five registered sex offenders were arrested for outstanding offences and are being dealt with by specialist units and local courts.

Six units, accompanied by colleagues from our Digital Forensics Unit, conducted nine warrants resulting in 10 arrests and investigations relating to online offences.

They visited 61 registered sex offenders were visited and internet-enabled devices examined.

All but one were in order, the police said.

Officers in plain clothes patrolled near schools in Cheshire – 40 separate patrols in total.

In total, 82 locations known for truancy, anti-social behaviour and reported drug use in Cheshire were patrolled.

Around 40 children were visited who have frequently been reported as ‘Missing from Home’.

And 50 youth offenders were visited and support offered in a bid to prevent future offending.

police operation guardians
Cheshire Police Chief Supt Gareth Lee

Detective Chief Superintendent Gareth Lee (pictured), Cheshire Constabulary’s Head of Public Protection and Criminal Justice, said: “Children are often the most vulnerable and innocent in our communities.

“No matter their age or background, they need our protection.

“It is the responsibility of every one of us – whether police or members of the public – to protect them from coming to harm, whether that’s from individuals who seek to exploit or cause serious harm, to looking closer at situations that display signs or behaviours that question whether something isn’t quite right.

“As members of the public and concerned members of our communities, we need you to report it so that officers and agencies take appropriate action that can ultimately lead to them being safe.

“Operation Guardians is putting a spotlight on what our officers are doing every day.

“It is a huge but important and essential challenge and one we will continue to do until we know children and young people in Cheshire are protected and safeguarded.”

John Dwyer, Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, said: “A key priority in my Police and Crime Plan is to protect vulnerable and at-risk people, and children who are targeted by online predators are among the most vulnerable in our society.

“That’s why I was keen to ensure that our Online Child Abuse Investigation Team received more funding and it has more than quadrupled in size as a result.

“This means we’re able to better protect vulnerable young people through Operation Guardians and my thanks to go to all the officers involved in this crucial work.

“We all have a part to play in keeping our children safe and it’s vital that people know the signs to look out for.”

Anyone with information relating to child abuse and exploitation or has concerns can call Cheshire Constabulary on 101 or report online via the website.

Information can also be provided anonymously by contacting Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.

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