Wednesday 17 April 2024
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App that tracks sex offenders’ online activity helps make more arrests

An app that tracks the online activities of sex offenders has helped a specialist police team make more arrests, seize more electronic devices and protect more children from harm.

The 40 per cent rise in successful outcomes over the last six months has also been driven by the recruitment of a new IT specialist to carry out more complex digital investigations.

Officers from a Nottinghamshire Police team specialising in the management of sexual and violent offenders have made 21 arrests, identified 27 new criminal offences and identified two safeguarding incidents where young people were potentially at risk since October 2020.

They have also uncovered 24 breaches of court orders and four hidden electronic devices.

This comes after the team benefited from the significant new investment – allowing it to keep a closer eye on the more than 1,300 offenders it monitors across the county.

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Nearly 80 per cent of the people monitored by the team have been convicted of an on-line offence and many will be subject to a specific Sexual Harm Prevention Order that gives police the power to monitor and examine their electronic devices to ensure they are not accessing explicit material.

Part of that monitoring effort is now carried out remotely using an app that monitors prohibited words, images and behaviours – for example sexualised chat on an internet forum or the consumption of pornography.

Offender managers, who started installing the software at the end of January, are then notified of prohibited behaviour by offenders and can then respond accordingly – potentially bringing a new charge if the breaches are serious enough.

The team’s new digital monitor officer, meanwhile, uses enhanced digital investigation techniques to identify undeclared devices and locate hidden and encrypted material.

Detective Sergeant Steve Dalby, one of four sergeants on the team, said: “We take the safeguarding of vulnerable young people and other victims extremely seriously and, ultimately, that is what this work is all about – keeping people safe from harm.

“When the courts put in place restrictions on people’s online behaviour they do it for a very good reason. As the people charged with ensuring compliance with those orders we are constantly thinking of new ways to identify people who think they can ignore them.

“This new investment has allowed us to add further to the already excellent work of the team and to really refine the approach we take with our offenders. When we do identify breaches there can be very serious consequences for people – up to and including sending them to prison.”

The specialist team, based in Mansfield and Nottingham, is made up of 28 investigators and Detective Sergeants who work every day to supervise offenders.

Individuals manage their own case-load of offenders. Home visits and other enquiries take place at regular intervals, but may also take place more regularly depending on the perceived risk posed by the offender.

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