The ‘dark web’ is being increasingly used by paedophiles in West Yorkshire to hide their tracks when they look at child images online, detectives have warned.
A West Yorkshire Police team dedicated to tackling those who look at indecent images of children say they are now having to think of other ways of catching the offenders.
The dark web is a network of encrypted sites which are invisible to search engines.
Detective Constable Chris Stocks, of the team, said: “A lot of people are now realising that the dark web, as they call it, is an area of the internet which is harder for the police to look into and investigate.
“A lot of people, when we have information that they have indecent images, we go round to their houses and we don’t find any images on their computer but we find traces of what’s called the dark web.”
He said it was an “ongoing issue we are currently looking at tackling in a different way”.
Det Con Stocks said the team’s workload had been increasing since it was set up three years ago and it now carries out two to three warrants on properties each week, with suspects arrested in the vast majority of cases.
He said ‘sexting’ among teenagers – the sharing of intimate photos with boyfriends or girlfriends via mobile phone – was a big issue, saying: “Unfortunately, these images go viral and I don’t think a lot of people understand how easy it is for children these days to take these images and forward them to each other.”
Asked about the emotional toll of having to trawl through indecent images of children as part of their investigations, Det Con Stocks said the work was difficult but rewarding.
“You never get used to seeing the images as such, which we see on a daily, if not weekly, basis,” he said.
But he said the support from the police was “very good” and they had six-monthly assessments with doctors.