A total of eighteen children have been provisionally identified and two suspected offenders have been arrested as a result of Europol’s 10th Victim Identification Taskforce (VIDTF) operation. Nine of these young victims have already been rescued by the competent authorities, with investigations continuing to safeguard the other victims.
The VIDTF is a Europol initiative that this year brought together specialists from 26 countries and associated agencies to identify victims and offenders in cases of child sexual abuse.
Between 25 October and 5 November 2021, these experts reviewed some 580 sets of images and video files representing unknown victims of child sexual abuse, including in some cases infants only a few days old. They were backed up by Europol specialists and intelligence analysts in relation to the fight against the sexual exploitation of children.
In addition to the identification of the 18 children, in 211 other cases the probable countries at the origin of the crimes were identified, and intelligence studies have been set in motion in the countries concerned in order to investigate them.
Since 2014, Europol has periodically brought together victim identification specialists from all over the world to concentrate on unresolved cases of child sexual abuse.
The VIDTF is the largest continuous operation of its kind in the world and has inspired a series of similar initiatives on a national or regional scale, including operations carried out in countries such as Italy and Australia.
To date, all the VIDTF operations combined have led to the following results:
• The participation of 290 specialists from over 35 countries.
• The probably country of origin has been identified in 1,726 cases.
As a result of all the VIDTF operations, over 533 children have been protected and 182 suspected offenders have been arrested.
It is possible to collaborate to identify the origin of specific objects as part of Europol’s “Trace an Object” initiative. The details of the images extracted from child sexual abuse cold cases are made public on a regular basis, in the hope that somebody may recognise a detail that will help to find the victim’s location.
A total of 27,000 tips have been sent to Europol so far, which have led to the identification of 23 children and to prosecutions being brought against five suspected offenders.
Europol has recently published a new set of images in the hope that they will be identified by the general public.