Police in Scotland have identified more than 500 children as potential victims of online sexual abuse with as many as 30 millionpornographic images seized during a crackdown operation.
The revelation was made after the Scottish police launched a series of investigations dubbed Operation Latisse, which has resulted in the apprehension of 77 people charged with rape, sharing indecent images of children and sexual extortion.
The six-week operation was conducted between 6 June and 15 July, and involved 134 investigations which identified 523 victims or potential victims, aged between three and 18, of sexual harassment online.
“Online child sexual abuse is a national threat. The reality is it is happening now, not only in Scotland but across the world, to children of all ages, from infants to teenagers,” said Malcolm Graham, Assistant Chief Constable of Police Scotland.
“Operation Lattise was about shining a light on the scale of this issue. It was focused activity to tackle the many forms of online child sexual abuse by identifying those who pose a risk to children online and, more importantly, identifying victims of online sexual abuse and exploitation, as well as preventing more youngsters becoming victims,” he said.
Graham called on parents to be "alert" but not alarmed, saying there were people in society who used technology to identify children possibly vulnerable to exploitation.
“Online child sexual abuse is not a victimless crime: children, from toddlers to teenagers, are being sexually abused and exploited now in Scotland and when an image or video clip is shared or viewed they are being re-victimized,” he continued.
Figures from Police Scotland indicate that the number of recorded sexual offenses is on the rise every year.
From 2014 to 2015, there were 23 offenses of grooming children for the purposes of sexual offenses while last year it was 50, undergoing a 117-percent increase, according to police.