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Last Updated: Monday, 24 April 2006, 09:49 GMT 10:49 UK
New phase in war on net paedophiles
Child using computer
Parents should put a child's PC in a busy room, say experts
A new law-enforcement agency has been set up to tackle child exploitation online. Will it work?

The Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP) will be staffed 24 hours a day by about 100 police, computer technicians and child welfare specialists.

Based in London, it is affiliated to the Serious Organised Crime Agency, the UK's new FBI-style organisation.

But with 20,000 people regularly accessing illegal images via the internet in the UK, and twice as many paedophile websites reported in 2005 than the year before, will it make a difference?

The key to its success could be having so many different agencies involved, says John Carr, an adviser on new technology to the children's charity, NCH.

"For the first time they're bringing under one physical roof all of the key players who have a stake in this," he said.

STAYING SAFE ONLINE
Don't give out personal details
This includes messenger ID, email address, mobile phone number and any pics
Don't publish a pic or video online
Ignore spam emails
Don't open files from people you don't know
Some people lie online
Keep online mates online - don't meet up
Report online child abuse
Source: CEOP

"It's not just the police, child protection and the internet industry, there are people from the Inland Revenue, people from the financial services industry, the credit card industry.

"All of these people have got a contribution to make and for the first time they're all going to be in the same room, so we're hoping that that's going to give them new energy and a new lift to the whole effort."

A new tactic will be officers posing as children in online chatrooms to entrap paedophiles, and setting up fake websites to entice abusers to disclose credit card details.

Neil Thompson, security director of Red 24, which advises parents on the threat posed by online paedophiles, said the agency was a huge step forward, primarily because of this strategy.

"The key difference is the pro-active approach of the police. They are going to draw the paedophiles in and success on this started in America," he said.

"It's not about waiting for the mother to contact the unit or the child, it's about going out and entrapping the paedophile."

Beach hut

Parents worried about their child being contacted by paedophiles online can contact the agency and speak to specialists, including welfare officers, he said. Any suspicions will be followed up by police.

No-one knows the true number of children being groomed online to be abused, he said, because so much goes unreported.

The way we have targeted drug dealers and people involved in other areas of organised crime, we will target these people who use these images as a commodity
Jim Gamble
CEOP director

And a man sitting in a beach hut in Thailand could pretend to a child he is in the UK, so the cooperation of international police will be crucial.

The centre's director, Jim Gamble, said a bespoke financial investigations unit will work with police around the world in targeting those who profit from the distribution of images of child abuse.

"The way we have targeted drug dealers and people involved in other areas of organised crime, we will target these people who use these images as a commodity," he said.

"We will buy these images ourselves undercover, we will follow the money trail and then we will attack their assets - their homes, their cars and their bank accounts. And we will use that money on further work."

He said people should not be fooled into thinking those who "only" view are not doing any harm because the demand and payment for such pictures fuels the market, and these people could be abusers in the real world.

"So even those people who go online and look at images are indirectly pushing child abuse to new levels.

"The centre recognises that online behaviour has an offline consequence and offline interest will manifest itself in your online behaviour and activity."




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Hear from members of the new team



SEE ALSO:
Centre to tackle net paedophiles
01 Apr 05 |  UK Politics
Child porn site blocks supported
17 Mar 05 |  Technology


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