Police arrested nearly 90 suspected paedophiles across Lancashire in five months as part of a strategy to thwart global child abuse.
The shocking figure is revealed as the force continues to work alongside the National Crime Agency (NCA), to use new ways of identifying potential online offenders who download and share images of abuse.
It has been hailed a major success by a senior detective.
Detective Supt Andy Murphy, head of public protection at Lancashire Constabulary, said: “Protecting the public, especially children, from harm and abuse is an absolute priority for Lancashire Constabulary and with our partners we will continue to proactively target offenders who use the internet to view or exchange indecent images of children and help safeguard those children who have become, or are at risk of becoming, victims.
“Between April and September last year Lancashire police carried out 75 warrants, made 84 arrests and, importantly, safeguarded 64 children who could have been at risk.
“These arrests show our continuing intent to stop offenders viewing indecent images and abusing children, and a new sophistication in our tactics.
“Many of the people we arrested in this operational activity were not previously known to law enforcement in relation to child abuse.
“If we hadn’t gone out looking for them as we have done, they would have remained under the radar and the nearly 70 children we safeguarded would still be at risk.
He added: “It is important to remember that these figures are just one snapshot of what we do and just one strand of our investigations into the sexual exploitation of children. In addition to proactively searching for online offenders, we receive around 1,500 referrals a year which we act upon and we will continue to prioritise this work to ensure that we safeguard those at risk.”
Details of the tactics used to identify offenders are not being disclosed, in order to protect their effectiveness in future investigations.
Derek Greer, 70, of Daisy Meadow, Bamber Bridge, accessed illegal images and was given a three-year order with supervision and a sexual harm prevention order after admitting three counts of making and two of possessing indecent images.
Richard Turner, 53, of Vicarage Close, Euxton, Chorley, also downloaded illegal images and was given 10 months suspended for two years and a sexual harm prevention order after admitting three counts of making and one of possessing indecent images and must take part in an internet sex offender treatment programme.
In December, the National Crime Agency published figures on operational progress by the NCA and 40 police forces citing 700 potential online offenders had been identified nationally under suspicion of accessing indecent images of children, 104 in positions of trust.
One of them, bus driver Kieron Smith, 28, of Northgate, Leyland, was jailed for eight months in April. A spokesman for the NCA said: “We do a lot of work with local forces to identify offenders who download and share images of children. It is daily business for us and something we have been trying to pursue since the NCA’s inception in 2014.”