Interpol launches task force on child sex abuse

Wednesday, January 17, 2007; 2:16 PM

LONDON (Reuters) - Interpol said on Wednesday it was launching a special task force to tackle a growing problem of pedophiles using fake "modeling" sites on the Internet to gain access to children.

The sites do not contain sexually graphic images, but serve as a front, enabling pedophiles to contact the site owners and gain physical access to the so-called child models, or to buy images of the children being abused.

"This trend requires the urgent attention of law enforcement, but the significant investigative resources required are simply not available in most national police forces, which is why Interpol is launching Project Guardian," Ronald Noble, head of the world police body, said at a Paris conference on child abuse.

He said officers on the task force would also investigate the involvement of organized crime in many of the sites.

Interpol said it would spend 1 million euros ($1.29 million) to launch Project Guardian, recruiting two police experts for two years and funding six international coordination meetings.

In a high-tech approach to combating child pornography, it has built up a vast database of images, and uses recognition software to establish links between victims and crime scenes, even when the photos are taken in anonymous indoor settings.

In one case, Interpol linked a photo of a young girl found on a computer in the United States to a series of pictures from Belgium showing a different child in the same room.

The police computer made the link by recognizing the wallpaper and the pattern on a pillowcase, and investigators eventually succeeded in tracing the victims and the abuser.

Interpol says the database has so far helped to identify and rescue more than 500 victims around the world. With funding from the Group of Eight nations, it will pilot a new scheme this year giving national investigators access to the database and to those held by police in other countries.

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