Arrests were made across Poland during a large-scale operation targeting the sexual exploitation of minors online.
Officers from the Polish Central Cybercrime Bureau (CBZC) raided 82 locations across the country and arrested 44 suspects aged between 18 and 66. They seized 15,500 pictures and video files depicting the sexual abuse of children, some of them infants and toddlers.
Police also confiscated 350 large-capacity digital storage units during the operation. Authorities said some included encrypted files that would be further investigated once decrypted.
A special task force set up in August carried out the operation in late October. Polish media reported it to be the largest such action in the country so far.
The cybercrime task force cooperated with other national and local authorities and Europol, a pan-European agency that helped identify the victims. Google and Facebook also worked with the police, while the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a US-based nonprofit, assisted with the investigation.
The leads obtained during the operation would be used in other ongoing investigations. According to police, one arrested individual was already a suspect in a case of the sexual abuse of two minors. Another had served a five-and-a-half-year sentence for sexually exploiting children.
The operation possibly prevented more crimes. During a raid at one home, the police uncovered correspondence with a 10-year-old which suggested the suspect had already gained the child’s trust for subsequent abuse.
In another instance, the police said that “an aggravated criminal sexual offense” was likely prevented with the arrest of the suspect but did not provide more details due to an ongoing investigation.
Interpol named online child abuse as one of the major concerns for police in its Global Crime Trend Report released last month. Interpol said more cases of sexual exploitation of children online were now detected in the European Union. Exacerbated by the pandemic, online child abuse would remain an increasing threat, the report warned.
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