Operation MOVIE 2: Inside Cumbria Constabulary’s Cyber Digital Crime Unit


This week in Operation MOVIE 2 the constabulary are shining a spotlight on the work of the Cyber Digital Crime Unit (CDCU).

The unit, funded by Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Peter McCall, is made up of specialist officers who are specifically trained stop offenders who exploit vulnerable people online.

Since the launch of unit in 2019, the dedicated team of officers continue to protect the public and catch criminals operating online, assisting, or leading more than 376 cases since its launch.

The Cyber and Digital Crime Units work often provides integral data for evidence in major investigations and trials. In the recent investigation into the murder in Lee McKnight, the unit’s complex telephony work was used as a vital piece of evidence to place the offenders at the scene of the crime.

Since the unit’s implementation, it has assisted with 213 cybercrimes and conducted 163 investigations into online child sexual abuse and exploitation.

The figures are highlighted today, as part of OP MOVIE 2, to demonstrating the often complex, unseen police work of this specialist unit. This work is ongoing in Cumbria, every day, to stop and deter cyber criminals, helping keep people safe in the process.

In one of the latest results from cases the unit investigated, on September 28th, a man was jailed for two years and six months. The CDCU’s investigations helped expose and evidence the child sex offences committed by Thomas Thompson, 58, of Penrith.

As part of the week, the CDCU team will be inviting the public to send questions in, via the Constabulary’s social media accounts. Questions will be welcomed on the work of the Cyber Digital Crime Unit, safeguarding information and support service information. Question will be answered in a live event across the Constabulary’s social media accounts on the 25th November between 12 and 2pm.

Detective Inspector Ian Harwood is head of the Cyber and Digital Crime Unit.

He said: “Our specialist officers continue their proactive work to deal with online offending and to help and safeguard those who are exploited.

“This is a dedicated unit staffed to deal with these type of offences – and I can reassure the people of Cumbria that the team is working tirelessly behind-the-scenes to keep children and other people safe, as well as track down anyone exploiting them.

“The recent case of Operation Totality which pursued online predator Thomas Thompson is a good example of the type of offender we aim to stop.

“This was a complex investigation involving our specially trained and experienced officers. The strength of digital evidence was such that my Thomas now faces time behind bars and 10 years on the Sex Offenders’ Register.”

What does the unit do?

The unit investigates and pursues offenders, as well as helping businesses and people protect themselves from attack.

Crimes tackled by the unit include online child sexual abuse and exploitation crimes such as downloading and distributing indecent images of children, Sexual communication with a child and Arranging and facilitating child sexual offences.

 It covers offences such as hacking, digital fraud and online exploitation.

 The unit also forensically examines digital devices seized during police investigations.

Behind the scenes, these types of crimes can involve long and complex investigations, including detailed examination of digital equipment.

Offenders often do not live in county boundaries.

DI Harwood added: “Tackling online crime and protecting children and vulnerable adults, including violence against women and girls is of the utmost importance to us.

“The way criminals who look to exploit their victims operate, has developed with the continuous advancement in technology.


“Many of the crimes we deal with are unseen to the public, with offenders using online technology to contact and groom their victims them into sexual or criminal activity.


“This is happening behind closed doors, sometimes invisible to friends and family.

“I would urge people to familiarise themselves with and to monitor what the vulnerable people in their lives are doing online. Ask them questions about their online activity and support them in using the internet confidently and positively”


Cumbria’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Peter McCall, said:


“We are all aware that technology is advancing rapidly, and so criminals also adapt and are using online methods to target vulnerable and trusting people.

“I funded the Cyber and Digital Crime Unit in Cumbria Constabulary in order to address this threat – and we now have a team of experts to help prevent cyber crime and to catch cyber criminals.  The truth is that this type of crime is endemic and we must all help by doing what we can to protect ourselves and our children online.

“Sadly child sexual exploitation is taking place in our communities which is why it’s so important that we talk to our children about what they should not share online, especially when talking to someone they have never met.

“The Cyber and Digital Crime Unit are doing a fantastic job and I know that they will continue to prevent and stop crime in Cumbria and help make the county a safer place for all.  We do offer Get Safe Online training which is free to anyone who wants to take it up and details can be found on the PCC website, I would encourage anyone to do the short training session which will help everyone to keep safe.”

If you have information on a digital or cybercrime you can report it to police on 101 always dial 999 in an emergency.

You can also report it online via www.cumbria.police.uk.

If you are the victim of a digital or cybercrime, please contact police so we can help and provide you contact with support services in Cumbria to support you.

If you would like to access support without police involvement, please contact Victim Support directly on 0300 303 0157 or the national 24/7 helpline is 0808 1689 111.

If you have been sexually abused or assaulted and do not wish to have police involvement, please contact The Bridgeway Sexual Assault Referral Centre directly on 08081186432.

People who are considering this type of offending are advised to seek help from someone they trust – or contact support agencies include the Samaritans and the Lucy Faithfull Foundation, a charity dedicated to tackling child sexual abuse.

Support agencies can also be found at www.cumbriatogether.com.

Some simple advice:

* Think about placing restriction settings on online devices. Find out more at www.thinkuknow.co.uk
* Explain to children that it’s easy for people to lie about age, gender, interests online and children should never arrange to meet someone without an adult who they trust
* Make sure children or young people know that once they share personal details online, including pictures, they lose control over where these may end up.
* Keep security settings on social media at high levels

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