Unmarked police van is helping to crack down on online paedophile abuse

PUBLISHED: 18:49 06 October 2017 | UPDATED: 19:06 06 October 2017

Elizabeth Truss MP looking at the Norfolk Police SCOLT van. Pictured with Chief Constable Simon Bailey.

Elizabeth Truss MP looking at the Norfolk Police SCOLT van. Pictured with Chief Constable Simon Bailey. Picture: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2017

From the outside, it looks like any other unmarked white van.

But this specially-equipped vehicle is being used by police to tackle one of the most serious crimes there is - online paedophile abuse.

Liz Truss, chief secretary to the treasury and South West Norfolk MP, has today (Friday) paid a visit to the county’s police headquarters at Wymondham to inspect the undercover Safeguarding Children Online Team (SCOLT) van.

The only one of its kind in the region, equipment in the van has been used for the past year to search computer hardware suspected of containing child pornography.

If no suspect material is found, the hardware can be quickly returned to its owners.

Ms Truss said: “We are facing serious issues of child grooming and child abuse, and this facility is all about helping the police get the evidence quicker, and helping family members who might be affected as well, so their equipment can be cleared.”

Ms Truss said the SCOLT van, together with other advances such as body-worn cameras, were examples of how technology was changing the face of policing.

She said: “We live in a much more technological society - we bank online, we’re able to buy our shopping online, and the police force need access to that technology as well to make sure that they are using their resources to the maximum.

“I want our fantastic police officers to have the maximum impact on the frontline so they’re not going back and forth from the police station - they’re spending their time investigating crime.”

Simon Bailey, Norfolk’s Chief Constable, said there were two major benefits to conducting ‘on-the-spot’ searches using the van’s equipment.

He said: “We’re not then clogging up our systems with evidence we don’t need, and were also keeping the disruption to the family or the friends of the offender to a minimum by not taking away their technology.

“It has been used very successfully so far and we are increasingly getting more use out of it as we become more sophisticated in our examinations, and I’m really pleased with the speed at which it is helping us carry out these warrants.”

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