Laptop keyboard
© Robert Galbraith / Reuters
Nearly 40 suspected online paedophiles have been arrested and 138 children protected during a week-long crackdown by the Met on internet groomers operating in London.

Dozens of laptops and phones and tens of thousands of images of child abuse and sexual exploitation were also seized in a series of raids across the capital.

The arrests came as Scotland Yard warned that the lockdown has resulted in a "greater number of sexual predators out there trying to target and groom young people".

Announcing the arrests, Detective Superintendent Helen Flanagan, from the Met's Online Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation Unit, said that the suspects came "from a variety of backgrounds" and that officers had been working "flat out" during the lockdown to prevent a surge in offences.

She added: "Every image is a crime scene, with a real child being abused. Every time offenders look at or share that image they are committing a vile crime and repeating abuse which devastates lives.

People cannot hide behind a screen and just because we're in lockdown doesn't mean my officers won't find you.

"If you access this appalling material you can expect to come to our attention and face arrest, prosecution, a criminal record and possible prison time."

"Lockdown has led to a significant growth in online use, including by children. Unfortunately, it also means there are a greater number of sexual predators out there trying to target and groom young people."

The 38 arrests during the latest crackdown, which took place between May 18 and May 23, follow the arrest of another 45 suspects during an earlier month of enforcement between March 23, when the lockdown began, and April 23.

Forensic investigation of equipment seized during the raids is continuing to establish what charges can be brought.

The Met is also continuing to receive an average of 50 referrals a week from the National Crime Agency about suspected online child abuse.

Det Supt Flanagan said that although the Met's statistics were not so far showing an increase in offending, the data would continue to updated and a more accurate picture would not emerge until later. She also urged parents to remain vigilant.

She added: "It can feel overwhelming trying to keep up with apps and sites that young people use.

"However, there are multiple sources of excellent advice available to help parents and young people have these conversations and navigate the online world, such as the ThinkUKnow website."

The Met said parents should also check and use parental controls, privacy settings and other safety features to protect their children.

More than 200 specialist officers currently in borough-based teams across the Met tackling online child abuse, as well as a central unit tackling the most serious cases. Action to protect children safeguarded during operations against suspected online paedophiles varies depending on the circumstances, but can include taking some into care.