A UNIT dedicated to stopping online child sexual exploitation and the sharing of indecent images of children has carried out 16 positive warrants in the five months since it was established.
A Police Online Investigation Team (POLIT) was set up as part of the Digital Communications and Cyber Crime Unit at Dyfed-Powys Police in March, in response to a growing concern of offenders committing crime online.
The team is made up of digital media investigators, forensic examiners, intelligence officers and analytical staff, who begin a case by collating intelligence from various sources about those suspected to be carrying out offences online.
Detective Sergeant Mathew Davies, of POLIT, said: “We are working closely with partner agencies in both the UK and US to identify offenders operating online viewing and sharing indecent images of children. I would like to warn people living in the Dyfed-Powys Police force area that we are proactively targeting those who carry out such activities, and the next knock at the door could be officers from my team.”
As well as police officers, digital forensic investigators attend search warrants to examine mobile phones and computers at the property.
DS Davies said: “Having experienced digital forensic investigators present at these warrants enables police to carry out examinations at the premises. This process of triage has resulted in police identifying early evidence on suspects’ devices and prevents the seizure of partners’ or children’s devices, which can leave families inconvenienced for lengthy periods. Having this evidence prior to interview can also result in suspects entering an early guilty plea.”
The nature of the cases investigated by POLIT involve considerable intelligence-gathering from various sources, the interrogation and analysis of data, identifying offenders and working with other police departments and partner agencies.
DS Davies added: “The implementation of the POLIT team at Dyfed-Powys embraces the need for improved digital working and makes a substantial contribution to the efficiency of bringing those offenders who commit this type of crime quickly to justice.
“The investment made by Dyfed-Powys Police in POLIT and the DCCU is recognition of the changing nature of crime. Offenders are increasingly using the internet and technology to harm children. If people choose to engage in this type of hideous and despicable crime then they can expect that specialist police officers will detect their activity. The implementation of the team embraces the need for improved digital working and makes a substantial contribution to the efficiency of bringing those offenders who commit this type of crime quickly to justice.
“Safeguarding young people and vulnerable persons is a priority for Dyfed-Powys Police and we would urge anyone with information about offences involving children to contact us.”
One of the partners POLIT works with is the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, which aims to prevent the sexual abuse of children by working with protective adults. The foundation believes that changing offenders is one of the best ways of protecting children, and police suggest that offenders contact them for intervention in managing their behaviour.
Tom Squire, clinical manager at child protection charity The Lucy Faithfull Foundation and Stop it Now! Wales, added: “There is no justification whatsoever for looking at sexual images of anyone under 18. Anyone who does needs to know that what they are doing is a serious crime and causes great harm to the children in the pictures. So we very much welcome the scaling up of police work in Dyfed-Powys to tackle this serious and growing crime.
“If we are serious about tackling this growing problem, we also need to prioritise work to prevent this crime from happening in the first place. That’s why we offer confidential support and advice to stop people looking at indecent images of children, and to stay stopped.
“People can access this help on a completely anonymous basis – either via our Stop it Now! Helpline on 0808 1000 900, or via the Stop it Now! website.”
Sentencing of Michael Nathan Cohen, Kidwelly
There have been occasions where officers conducting a warrant have discovered suspects in the process of viewing indecent images, and others where the offender has made an effort to delete or hide the files.
The home of Michael Nathan Cohen, of Monskford, Kidwelly, was deliberately targeted during the early hours of June 27 as intelligence showed that was when he was more likely to be committing an offence. It proved correct, as Cohen was viewing a video when they entered his house.
DS Davies said: “Officers attended the address and caught the offender watching a child abuse film at that time. This has happened on more than one occasion, when we have carried out the warrant at a specific time and the offender has been caught in the act.
“It is important to realise that downloading and watching indecent images and films is not a victimless crime. This has a huge impact on the young people involved, as well as the families of those offending.”
Anyone with any information about someone they suspect is viewing or downloading indecent images or videos of children is urged to contact Dyfed-Powys Police on 101. If you are Deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired, text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.
Sentencing of Ian David Croker, Narberth, on Friday, August 18.
A recent POLIT investigation resulted in a man being sentenced to 30 months in prison, just one month after a warrant was carried out at his home.
On Wednesday, July 12, POLIT officers and Pembrokeshire CID carried out a warrant in Stepaside, Narberth. A triage of devices at the scene quickly identified indecent images of children on a laptop belonging to 42-year-old Ian David Croker.
The entire examination and analysis of Croker’s mobile and laptop was completed within 24 hours, revealing there were 275,676 images and 6,220 videos in total. By carrying out an extrapolation of the initial amount of images identified, it was estimated that 42,222 indecent images would potentially be contained on the drive, with a large number being the most severe Category A.
Tenacious work by the Digital Forensic Investigators identified videos on Croker’s phone and laptop, which indicated that he had also been recording males using public toilets in various locations.
CPS advice was obtained and Croker was charged with possessing indecent images of children and voyeurism. On Friday, August 18, 2017, Croker pleaded guilty and was sentenced to 30 years in prison.
DS Davies said: “We welcome this sentence and are pleased the court saw the offence as serious enough to warrant an immediate term of imprisonment. We hope this will reinforce our commitment to eradicate all forms of child abuse and relentlessly pursue those in our communities who perpetrate such acts.”
AM calls for further protection of wild animals after Lynx deaths
MID AND WEST AM Simon Thomas has called for further protection from the Welsh Government following the death of two wild cats from a zoo in Borth, near Aberystwyth.
The AM quizzed the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment and Rural Affairs Lesley Griffiths in a topical question in the Senedd.
Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Energy, Climate Change and Rural Affairs for Plaid Cymru Simon Thomas said: “The deaths of the two Lynx wild cats have created a great deal of concern to many people in the area and, more broadly, to people who care for animals and their welfare at zoos.
“I asked whether the Welsh Government approved of the steps taken by Ceredigion County Council in this case and more broadly with the position of the zoo. It’s clear that there’s something amiss when a wild animal can escape and another dies because of its handling. I requested we look at national regulations that govern organisations such as this to ensure that people who run zoos do have the appropriate skills, but also that the equipment is suitable for the animals kept there.
The Cabinet Secretary Lesley Griffiths replied: “Ceredigion County Council is investigating the escape of the lynx and the death of a second lynx linked to the zoo to establish whether there have been any breaches of the operating licence. While inquiries are ongoing it would be inappropriate for me to comment further on this matter.”
She added: “Officials have been in frequent contact with Ceredigion County Council. The decision to dispatch the animal was taken by the county council along with Dyfed-Powys Police, officials from Welsh Government and also the chief veterinary officer. There are several issues that I think need to be looked into very carefully around the licence.”
Police warn about scam phone calls
DYFED-POWYS POLICE are warning Ceredigion residents about reports of scam telephone calls.
Officers have received reports of someone purporting to be from the Her Majesty Revenue and Customs (HMRC) asking for money.
Sgt Richard Marshall said: “Officers responded to a report of a telephone scam by fraudsters pretending to be HMRC collecting debt, in Aberaeron, yesterday (Thursday 16 November).
“Fraudsters are carrying out these calls in an effort to get personal financial details from residents, and eventually get them to pay money stating that they owe taxes.
“The HMRC would never target people in this way and would certainly never ask for money or bank details over the phone.
“Thanks to the prompt actions of a local shop in alerting us, we were able to quickly locate the victim and minimise his loss.
“Taking advantage of the vulnerable through fraud is wrong, and we will do all in our power to stop it and protect those who need safeguarding. Police Community Support Officers (PCSOs) have been out and about this week spreading the message of how not to fall prey to fraudsters and ask for community support.
“A strong and concerned community is our best tool in protecting the vulnerable.
“Please be vigilant, do not part with any money or personal information. Remember – It is OK not to speak with cold callers – just put the phone down. If you are concerned please contact police on 101.”
Top tips on how to avoid scams:
· HMRC would never use texts to tell you about a tax rebate or penalty or ever ask for payment in this way.
· Telephone numbers and text messages can easily be spoofed. You should never trust the number you see on your telephones display.
· If you receive a suspicious cold call, end it immediately.
· Do not enter into conversation with them, provide them with any personal details or send them any money
For further advice and information on how to avoid being scammed visit www.actionfraud.police.uk.
Cardigan: Welsh language nursery’s treasurer stole £16,336 from coffers
A FORMER treasurer of Cylch Meithrin Penparc in Cardigan has been jailed today for a fraud that brought the Welsh language nursery to its knees.
Catrin Davies, a 33 year old single mother of two daughters, cheated the organisation out of £16,336.
After she left the post the nursery struggled to pay debts and at one stage was left with £1.84p in its bank.
Davies, of Bwthyn Lleine, Ferwig, admitted fraud and was jailed for eight months.
Judge Geraint Walters, sitting at Swansea Crown Court, told her the offending was too series for the sentence to be suspended.
Craig Jones, prosecuting, said Davies was appointed treasurer in September, 2015, and left the post in December 2016.
The new treasurer noticed discrepancies in the accounts. Davies tried to cover them up by sticking pieces of paper onto bank statements to blank out figures, photocopying them, and then carefully typing in new and bogus figures.
By then Davies had failed to pay money into the account and withdrawn some herself.
Mr Jones said that at one stage the nursery had to pay a roof repair bill. Davies knew there wasn’t enough money in the account but to keep the fraud going and to avoid detection she actually paid the bill out of her own money.
Mr Jones said after the true financial situation had been established Cylch Meithrin Penparc was at risk of closure. Internet access was cut off because the telephone bill could not be paid and staff found themselves buying essential items out of their own money.
And there was still a fear, he added, that the nursery would struggle to overcome the blow and to recover the confidence of parents.
Janet Gedrych, representing Davies, said she had suffered a devastating fall from grace.
Davies ran the Pink Orchid florists in Priory Street, Cardigan, for nine years and had a good reputation in the town.
But her partner left her and his debts behind and ran up more and she owed £30,000 in personal and business debts. By October, 2015, debt collectors were knocking on her door and she defrauded Cylch Meithrin Penparc to pay them off.
Judge Walters said the nursery provided a hugely valuable service to parents who wanted their children to learn Welsh and Davies had helped herself to money they had paid in.
“Your activity has reduced its ability to operate. It has not closed but it’s hanging by a thread.”
Judge Walters said he accepted that Davies had found herself squeezed financially, but many people struggled under similar circumstances.
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