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07 June 2012

Identifying child sexual abusers and saving victims focus of INTERPOL meeting

LYON, France – Child protection and online victim identification specialists from around the world gathered at the INTERPOL General Secretariat headquarters this week, enabling the direct exchange of information to identify potential links in investigations around the world.

The INTERPOL specialist group on crimes against children meeting (4-7 June), which brought together 146 experts from 45 countries, non-governmental organizations and the private sector included a series of regional workshops and a forum for sharing updates on ongoing cases.

Information exchanges at previous meetings and through the INTERPOL network have led to the identification of child sexual offenders around the world, including a Dutch paedophile referred to as Robert M who was recently sentenced to 18 years for abusing more than 60 children, some just a few months old, in two Amsterdam nurseries and in homes where was babysitting. 

The 28-year-old Latvian was identified after being linked to another investigation by officers in the United States.  Images recovered were shared by members of the INTERPOL specialist group, with one victim identification specialist identifying the picture as having come from the Netherlands.

Subsequent investigation enabled investigators around the world to arrest a further 37 sex offenders, many of them abusing multiple victims.  So far, in this case alone, the number of children removed from harm stands at 128.

Other recent successes include Operation Laminar, which targeted 55 key suspects in 20 countries who had been using social networking groups to exchange child abuse material. This operation was coordinated by the INTERPOL Crimes Against Children team after being started by the Department of Internal Affairs in New Zealand and built on through Homeland Security Investigations in the USA.  That operation saw 12 children identified and removed from harm.

“These specialist working group meetings are an important part of the investigative process, both before, in terms of training, during, for information sharing, and after, to exchange best practice,” said Mick Moran, Head of INTERPOL’s Crimes Against Children unit, adding that bringing the specialists together also fosters a feeling of camaraderie and shared purpose that makes the sharing of vital information easier and faster.

“And as the world’s largest police organization with connections to specialist investigators around the world, INTERPOL is ideally placed to offer the support needed at the national level, particularly through our International Child Sexual Exploitation (ICSE)database, which contains images relating to nearly 2,500 identified victims of sexual exploitation from 41 countries.

“Each image represents a crime scene, a victim and an offender and another important aspect of our specialist groups is to ensure that officers have the skills to investigate all of these aspects fully, and eventually to lead to more children being rescued,” concluded Mr Moran.