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Police target online paedophiles with Internet agency

Written by: Staff

LONDON, Apr 24 (Reuters) Police officers will trawl online chatrooms posing as children to entrap paedophiles as part of a new agency launched today to tackle child abuse over the Internet.

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre -- which will work in partnership with the recently-set up Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) -- will operate 24 hours a day.

The new unit, staffed by specialist police officers, computer experts and child welfare officials, will also create fake Web sites that will pretend to offer child porn to entice paedophiles into giving up credit card details.

''We have to realise that the online and offline worlds are connected and face up to the fact that today's children are sophisticated users of mobile phones and the Internet.

Protecting them in this environment needs a new kind of response,'' said a Home Office spokesman.

Although police have previously posed as minors as part of sting operations, the new unit will be the first of its kind to be permanently staffed.

Britain has been directing more resources in the battle against online pornography and paedophilia following the start of Operation Ore, an investigation launched in 2002 into British subscribers to a US network of child porn Web sites.

The crackdown has led to an explosion in convictions for child pornography offences. Thousands of people have been arrested, charged and convicted for viewing and trading in abuse images of children.

Reuters PR BST1426

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