CHILDREN at risk of coming into contact with online predators have been safeguarded through a police investigation team.

Officers from Cleveland Police's Paedophile Online Investigation Team (POLIT) have been investigating instances of online crimes against children across the Cleveland area.

Cleveland Police have said a total of 226 children have this year been protected from coming into contact with paedophiles online through work by officers from the POLIT.

The force added that, this year, 79 people have been arrested and 14 people spoken to voluntarily, 46 warrants have been executed, and 64 referrals have been made to social services.

As well as this, the force said another 7,805 children and parents have taken part in training about how to stay safe online.

Specialist officers from POLIT are tasked with investigating investigate online child grooming, indecent images of children, and offences of causing/inciting children to engage in sexual activity online.

The officers also work with school liaison officers to deliver important training on how children can stay safe online and how parents can take steps to help prevent their children being targeted by paedophiles online.

The team also works closely with other Forces and the National Crime Agency to crackdown on internet paedophile rings.

Cleveland Police added there have been a number of successful convictions at court this year, including a man and woman who had discussed online sexually abusing the woman’s young son, a man in possession of a paedophile “manual” and thousands of indecent images of children, and two men who chatted online before making and distributing indecent images of children.

Detective Sergeant Kevin Carter, from POLIT, said the work helps bring online crimes to the forefront.

He said: “The team works hard all year round to safeguard children and help raise awareness of how to keep children safe from being targeted by online predators.

"Every case is harrowing and the job can be tough. Our officers receive psychological support to help them deal with the traumatic nature of their role, but the team are determined to help protect children from being targeted online.

“These types of offences mainly take place behind closed doors and it is the hard work of our team that brings these offences out in the open in order to bring people to justice.

"Members of the public can also assist us by reporting anything that they think may be suspicious, therefore providing police with all important intelligence and sharing our messages on how to keep children safe online.”