Specialist officers have led to a six-fold increase in the number of people in Northamptonshire arrested for downloading child abuse images, according to new figures.
A Freedom of Information request put in by the BBC revealed that the number of suspects arrested in 2016 was 210. The figure in 2014 was just 33.
The figures have been welcomed by the NSPCC, which has called on other forces to follow Northamptonshire Police's example of creating a team of expert officers to track offenders.
An NSPCC spokesperson said: “Downloading and distributing child abuse images is an abhorrent crime. Each picture is a crime scene involving a young victim who has been abused and whose suffering is compounded every time that image is passed around online.
“The proliferation of these appalling images is a major – and growing – problem which needs industry, government and law enforcement to tackle in unison.
“The NSPCC wants to see a specialist digital child abuse unit in every police force, trained to deal with sexual and other online offences against children.”
DI Andy Rogers, head of the POLIT team at Northamptonshire Police, said the number of officers specialising in catching these kind of offenders had increased in the police force.
"Offenders are increasingly using the internet and technology to harm children and it is vitally important we have a team of experts dedicated to catching those committing these types of crime and bringing them to justice," DI Rogers said.
"We have poured resources into this complex area of business and unsurprisingly there has been a corresponding increase in conviction rates in relation to the possession and distribution of indecent images of children (IIOC). This trend is reflected nationally.
"The force has a team of ten officers who work tirelessly to safeguard children by detecting abuse and prosecuting offenders, called POLIT (Paedophile Online Investigation Team). This specialist team work cohesively to deal with specialist lines of investigation, enabling them to quickly identify those who pose the greatest risk to children within our communities.
"Their work is to investigate allegations of online child abuse and offences relating to IIOC in accordance with current statutory, procedural and local management guidelines and provide guidance to officers across the force in respect of IIOC/ online grooming offences," he added.
The Northamptonshire Police website contains useful help and advice – please go to www.northants.police.uk for help and support.
Anyone with any information about people viewing and sharing indecent images of children to report it immediately by calling 101 or 999 in an emergency to ensure we continue to protect people from harm.