Three men from the Lynn area have been arrested as part of a nationwide child sex abuse operation, police have revealed.
The men, who are aged 52, 51 and 41, are among 660 people detained as part of a six-month investigation led by the National Crime Agency (NCA) and involving more than 40 police forces, including Norfolk.
Seven men from Norfolk, including the Lynn three, have been arrested as part of the operation, while police say that a total of 347 computers and 36 mobile phones were seized in the operation in Norfolk and Suffolk alone.
Although it is not known when the arrested men were detained, officials have said they are currently on bail pending further inquiries.
And police chiefs have warned that the level of reported abuse against children is rising all the time.
Norfolk Police chief constable Simon Bailey, who is also national policing lead for child protection and abuse investigations, said: “Sexual abuse is a complex crime taking many forms.
“The vast majority of forces are dealing with an unprecedented increase in the number of reports of sexual abuse of children.
“We are committed to using all the tools available to us because nothing is more important in policing than protecting vulnerable people.”
Although details of the operation were only made public on Wednesday, police and the NCA have spent several months targeting people suspected of viewing indecent images of children online.
Phil Gormley, the NCA’s deputy director general, said the operation had been “unprecedented” for the level of co-operation between forces.
He said: “Our aim was 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 re-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, so the operation is not only about catching people who have already offended.
“It is about influencing potential offenders before they cross that line.”
Mr Gormley added: “We want those offenders to know that the internet is not a safe anonymous space for accessing indecent images, that they leave a digital footprint, and that law enforcement will find it.”
NCA officials said the operation had remained secret until now in order to identify suspected offenders, protect children and gather evidence. Around 400 children are said to have been safeguarded.
The exact details of how the arrested people were found have not been released either, as the NCA hopes to use similar tactics to catch other offenders.
Mr Bailey added: “Police must continue to use a range of investigative techniques targeting all forms of abuse if we going to protect children and bring offenders to justice.”
The agency has also said the majority of those arrested were not previously known to police.