The complex fight against child sex offenders

Crimes against children tend to be local crimes, and most take place within the family circle. However, there are two areas where there is an international component:

Network crimes: crimes against minors are facilitated by Internet, the most intense use of which over recent years has meant a significant increase in crimes. Not only are offenders able to distribute and access child abuse material easily, but they can also make direct contact with children, via chats and social network sites.

INTERPOL’s International Child Sexual Exploitation (ICSE) database – Interpol

Interpol is developing a project along with suppliers of Internet access services to block child abuse material on internet.

Travelling child sex offenders: also known as “sexual tourism“, this type of crime involves the abuse of children in developing countries by people who travel there. The relative wealth of the delinquent, along with the lack of understanding and of effective legislation, means that abusing children is easy in these countries. This type of crime is related to children trafficking, organised crime and murder.

These types of crime represent a major challenge to the police worldwide and require specialist skills and an increase in resources. It is here where Interpol is trying to expand its tools:

Identification of the victim: Interpol is working to identify victims of child sex abuse shown in photographs and films. This implies a combination of traditional investigation methods and the analysis of images. The database of images of child sex abuse is fundamental for this task, which uses a sophisticated image comparison programme to make connections between victims and places.

Yellow warnings: if requested by a member state, Interpol can issue a yellow warning to help to locate missing persons, especially minors. These announcements are distributed internationally and recorded on an Interpol database for missing and kidnapped children.

Green warnings: if requested by a central national office or an international entity, Interpol can issue a green warning to warn of the criminal activities of a particular person, when the person is considered to be a possible threat to public security

Blue warnings: If required by the national central bureau or an international entity, Interpol can issue a blue warning to locate, identify or obtain information about a possible criminal record or any other information relevant to an investigation.

On Interpol’s part, a complete training portfolio is being developed and perfected to cater for the wide range of needs related to international crime against the community that applies the law. There is a particular focus on skills development initiatives that have to be implemented in most-at-risk regions, like South America, Africa and South East Asia…

While many countries have child protection and special victim units, few have specialised staff capable of investigating cases of online child sex abuse or of identifying the victim. Recognising that child sex abuse happens in all countries and societies, a basic function of crimes against children is, therefore, to help to develop policing skills in Interpol member states. For this reason, officials have been deployed in regional offices in Buenos Aires (Argentina) and Lobang (Thailand), as well as in the IGCI in Singapore. Since 2017, there have been focal points in the four African regional offices. These officials have been trained to understand the services, training programmes and other forms of support available to combat crime against minors, and they have the mission of establishing activities and developing projects in their respective regions.


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