Cyber and Digital Crime Unit investigate 206 crimes in one year

Cumbria Constabulary’s Cyber and Digital Crime Unit (CDCU) have investigated and assisted with 206 online crimes since April 2022, 104 of which are online child abuse investigations.


Of the 104 investigations done by the Online Child Abuse Investigation Team (OCAIT), Cumbria Constabulary made 60 arrests, issued 18 warrants and attended 26 safeguarding visits. Since April 2022, 40 people have been charged with over 183 offences and 130 children have been safeguarded from online child abuse and exploitation.


One of the many success stories, following an OCAIT investigation is the sentencing of an online predator to seven years and three months in jail. Martin Cole, 32, of Greystone Place, Cleator Moor, admitted three counts of causing or inciting a child to engage in sexual activity: one of causing a child to watch a sexual act, three counts of making indecent images of children and possessing extreme pornography. He was grooming a young girl from outside of the county who he had met on Snapchat.  He groomed her buying her clothes and gifts and sending her money in return for naked images of herself. When officers searched Cole’s phone they found 5,805 illegal images – more than 500 of which were of the child he had been sending money to.


The CDCU investigates all types of cyber-crime from fraud, blackmail, money laundering and hacking. Since April 2022, the CDCU has investigated or provided specialist support to ten investigations involved cryptocurrency theft or money laundering schemes that utilised cryptocurrency to do so. A total of £268,300 has been investigated and over £250,000 of cryptocurrency has been identified with specialist capability allowing the Unit to track and trace the movement of the finances. At this time, no money has been seized as the finances are outside of the UK.


One investigation by the Unit lead to a perpetrator being placed in jail for 29 months for hacking. Sam Partington, 30, from Lytham, hacked into a woman’s Snapchat and Facebook accounts to steal private images and messages. Partington also changed login details to stop the victim, whom he knew personally, logging back into her accounts. Following an investigation, Partington’s mobile phone was found to also contain indecent images of children.


Cumbria’s Police, Fire and Crime Commissioner, Peter McCall, who funds the CDCU which opened in May 2019, said: “Technology is constantly growing, and criminals are using this to their advantage to commit crimes from the comfort of home.


“We funded the Cyber and Digital Crime Unit to provide Cumbria Constabulary with the specialist capability to investigate all forms of cyber-crime. The unit helps to identify those who need safeguarding and gather evidence to gain a sentencing in court.  This is a growing but generally unseen area of crime which can affect us all but in particular those who may not be generally aware of the dangers of internet enabled crime and the vulnerable.  I especially worry about children and the elderly who may be susceptible to scammers and online criminals.


“The CDCU do a fantastic job keeping us safe from some of the most heinous criminals, both in the county and out.


“Carrying out 206 investigations within a year is an incredible feat and now 130 more children have been safeguarded from experiencing online child abuse again, thanks to the dedication of the Officers and Staff within the unit.


“I look forward to seeing what the Unit achieve in the future.


“If anyone has been affected by online crime, please report it to the Police on 101, or 999 in an emergency or contact Action Fraud on 0300 123 2040, and I would always urge anyone who is concerned about internet security to check the ‘Get Safe Online’ website for free advice.”


Detective Inspector Fiona Gray is head of the Cyber and Digital Crime Unit.

She said: “Tackling online crime and protecting the public is of the utmost importance to us.”

“As these figures demonstrate, our specialist officers continue to work tirelessly to combat the various forms of online offending, safeguarding those at risk and bringing offenders to justice.

“We also carry out educational inputs, equipping people of all ages with the knowledge and skills to protect themselves and their families from online exploitation and cyber threats.

“The funding received by the Unit has enabled us to invest in technology and expertise to ensure we remain at the cutting- edge of this ever- evolving area of criminality.

“Many of the crimes we deal with are unseen to the public, and where young people are concerned, often without the knowledge of their parents or guardians.

“I would urge people to take an active interest in the online activities of your children, familiarising yourself with the sites they use and who they are communicating with.

“If you have any concerns about a child being abused or exploited online, these should be reported to the constabulary via any of the recognised reporting channels. “


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