Berlin - About 250 police officers early Wednesday launched targeted raids throughout the capital to strike a blow against child molesters. The raids are targeting criminals in several boroughs and have already yielded evidence including cellphones, USB sticks, laptops and other storage devices.

Although no arrests have been made nor warrants issude, lead police investigator Norma Schürmann said the 42 suspects are all male and between 17 and 84 years old. About two-thirds of the suspects are already known to the police and half of those have previously been connected to sexual offenses.

Schürmann is a senior investigator at state police district 13, which focuses on the investigation of sexual offenses. Officers have been investigating for months after tips from teachers and parents - as well as other avenues - led to the suspects.

Images shared on Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp

Although Internet searches didn't tip off investigators, they did receive help from the US and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), located in a suburb of Washington D.C. The organisation, partially funded by the government, collects tips about crimes against children and forwards them to authorities. The NCMEC also uses software that hunts for child pornography on the World Wide Web.

Police said some of the suspects in Wednesday's raids not only collected but also distributed images, primarily on Facebook and Instagram. Though Whatsapp was also used as a distribution channel. 

A symbolic picture of what officers are looking for.