Fight crimes against children
INTERPOLís work to fight crimes against
People who sexually abuse
children come from all countries, cultures and levels of
society. They can blend into the general population, working and
living alongside colleagues and neighbors who never suspect
their criminal activities. The general conception is that all
child sex offenders are predatory, covertly targeting, abducting
and sexually abusing their victims. This type of offender is the
exception rather than the rule. However, they are the most
dangerous and attract the widest media attention because such
abductions can and often do lead to the murder of a child.
There are an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 child victims of sexual
abuse whose images are available on the Internet. Perpetrators
of this type of crime tend to be either deviants with a sexual
interest in children or organized crime groups drawn to the huge
profits involved in providing such images commercially. In both
cases, it is not uncommon for them to cross borders to commit
their crimes in other countries.
INTERPOL as a central point of contact
It is essential for police to be able to co-operate with their
counterparts globally to fight computer-facilitated crimes
against children. The Internetís borderless nature significantly
complicates the identification of victims at the national level.
Images can be easily taken and uploaded in one country, and then
made available to anyone in the world with a computer and an
The existence of a central body to collect, store, analyse and
disseminate information on child exploitation on the Internet is
the most effective way to combat these offences. INTERPOLís
unique position in the international law enforcement community,
the expertise of its specialised officers and the police forces
in its 186 member countries enables it to fulfil this important
role, while helping countries avoid duplication of investigative
effort and conserve resources.
The main component of INTERPOLís work involves co-ordinating
international investigations, analysing information and
intelligence, and managing the INTERPOL Child Abuse Image
INTERPOLís Specialist Group on Crimes against Children focuses
on four areas: commercial exploitation and trafficking in
children; sex offenders; serious violent crimes against
children; and child sexual abuse images. More and more countries
are engaging the Trafficking in Human Beings Sub-Directorate at
the INTERPOL General Secretariat in their efforts to combat
crimes against children, as the amount of data being recovered
from computers all over the world during investigations
continues to grow.
Child sexual exploitation on the Internet ranges from posed
photos to visual recordings of brutal sexual crimes. The
victimís suffering continues far beyond the actual abuse through
the circulation and use of the images via the Internet.
The INTERPOL Child Abuse Image Database (ICAID) is one of the
main tools for helping police fight child sexual exploitation on
the Internet. The ICAID facilitates the sharing of images to
assist law enforcement agencies with the identification of
victims. The ICAID, which had more than 125,000 images when it
was created in 2001, currently contains more than 520,000 images
submitted by 36 member countries. This database has helped
police identify and rescue almost 600 victims from 31 different
countries to date. The ICAID also enables INTERPOL to assist
ongoing investigations by providing a mechanism for alerting
authorities when new images of sexual abuse are found.
The examples below provide some insight into how INTERPOL
assists police around the world to investigate and solve this
type of crime.
Two young girls, aged 9 and 11, were being sexually abused and
filmed. A video of the abuse was found in Australia, where
authorities requested the assistance of the INTERPOL General
Secretariat to identify the language spoken and hence possibly
the location of the victims. The involvement of various
authorities, together with INTERPOLís co-ordination of the
investigation, led to the identification of the location, rescue
of the victims, arrest of the abuser, the girlsí father, in
Belgium, and arrest in Italy of the man who filmed the abuse.
Two men were arrested in early 2005 for their involvement in the
sexual abuse of children as young as 18 months. Close
co-operation between the INTERPOL General Secretariat and the
police and National Central Bureaus in Spain and Canada
uncovered a network of child rapists operating throughout Spain.
The case started in February 2005, when a Canadian police
officer discovered images of child abuse and liaised with
INTERPOL for further analysis. A Spanish officer working at the
INTERPOL General Secretariat was able to confirm the location of
the crime as Spain based on the computer keyboard visible in the
video. Analysis of the images yielded other clues, resulting in
the arrest of the abusers and the identification of seven
victims aged two to four years old. The main abuser worked as a
babysitter, providing him easy access to children.
In October 2003, INTERPOLís Trafficking in Human Beings unit
received 50 images of child abuse from the Swedish police. The
pictures were called the ĎGreen Leavesí series. The INTERPOL
General Secretariat received an additional 20 videos by Canadian
authorities featuring the same victim in August 2005. With
assistance from officers at the General Secretariat, the
language spoken in the videos was identified as Polish.
During spring 2006, a Polish police officer participating in a
training programme with the Trafficking in Human Beings
Sub-Directorate at the General Secretariat further analysed the
film. A section of a childrenís playground area could be seen
outside the room where the footage was shot, and the officer
identified the area as being in a specific neighborhood of
Warsaw. With this information, police were able to pinpoint the
location where it had been filmed. In August 2006, the abuser
was arrested and his victim rescued after many years of abuse.
Without the assistance of vigilant officers in member countries
and at the INTERPOL General Secretariat, these and many other
similar cases would probably not have been resolved or would
have required additional time and resources. These cases also
demonstrate the effectiveness of an international point of
contact which can provide crucial analytical, linguistic and
operational support for complex criminal investigations.
back to top