DOZENS Of homes in Essex have been raided as part of a national operation to catch hundreds of suspected paedophiles.

Doctors, teachers and scout leaders were among the 660 people taken into custody across the country.

Essex Police estimate 20 children in the county, and more than 400 nationally, have been protected as a result.

31 raids were carried out in Essex with 24 men arrested on suspicion of possessing indecent images of children.

Det Insp Danny Stoten said: “We have been working closely with the National Crime Agency to develop this intelligence, execute search warrants and make arrests whenever possible.

“The information has allowed us to pick up a range of suspects previously operating under the radar.

"Offenders need to know the internet is not a safe anonymous space for accessing indecent images.”

There were nine raids in Colchester, three in Tendring, five in Chelmsford, four in Basildon, five in Southend and five in Harlow.

In total 45 police forces supported the operation led by the National Crime Agency


39 of the 660 arrested were registered sex offenders but the rest were previously unknown to police.

The operation targeted people accessing indecent images of children online but details of how they were identified will remain secret.

NCA Deputy Director General Phil Gormley said: “This is the first time the UK has had the capability to co-ordinate a single targeted operation of this nature.

"Over the past six months we have seen unprecedented levels of cooperation to deliver this result.

“Our aim is to protect children who were victims of, or might be at risk of, sexual exploitation.

"A child is victimised not only when they are abused and an image is taken, they are victimised every time that image is viewed by someone."

“Some of the people who start by accessing indecent images online go on to abuse children directly."

All 24 arrested in Essex are currently on police bail.

Anyone with information relating to child sexual exploitation or who suspects someone is using the internet to access indecent images call the Essex Police online investigation team on 101.