Police say that over 700 children have been safeguarded by specialist officers working as part of a paedophile online investigation team since it was launched five years ago.
Figures from Cleveland Police show that over the last three years also 253 people have been charged to court for online sexual offences against children and over 350 warrants have been executed at addresses in Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Stockton and Redcar.
The highly-trained team, known as POLIT, investigates online child grooming, indecent images of children, and offences of causing/inciting children to engage in sexual activity online.
The team received a boost last year with the addition of a van fitted out with equipment to quickly analyse confiscated computers and other devices for inappropriate and criminal material outside addresses.
POLIT works closely with other forces and the National Crime Agency to crackdown on internet paedophile rings.
Officers receive psychological support to help them deal with traumatic nature of their role.
Detective Inspector Steve Bell who leads the team said: “Each case that we deal with is harrowing and shocking, but we have an absolute drive and determination to seek justice for victims and protect our children from online predators.
“We need continued help and support from the public to provide us with intelligence and share our messages on how to keep children safe online. In 2019 we will be continuing our investigations and executing more warrants to keep our children safe.”
Assistant Chief Constable Jason Harwin added: “So many of the crimes that we deal with are hidden behind closed doors and in private spaces, we want to bring these offenders out into the open and bring them to justice.
“Investigating sexual offences against children is one of the toughest and most important jobs in policing.
"Our detectives are doing fantastic work in difficult circumstances, and we will continue to give them the tools that they need to protect the most vulnerable in our communities.”