Europe’s police agency Europol today launched a new website showing everyday objects spotted in the background of child sex abuse images which they hope will help crack unsolved crimes.
The 20 images on the site, called “Stop Child Abuse – Trace an Object” feature “mundane objects… which can sometimes end up being a key lead in an investigation, resulting in the victims’ identification and rescue,” said Steven Wilson, chief of Europol’s EC3 Cybercrime centre.
There are even distinctive markings on a victim’s clothes, such as a kitten or a unicorn,or a picture of a snow-filled field with homes in the background, believed to have been taken by one victim.
All the images are from active cases involving minors that detectives have been unable to solve.
Europol Executive Director Rob Wainwright said:
“The Victim Identification Task Force held at Europol has repeatedly shown the significant possibilities of rescuing victims of child abuse through experts working together analysing abuse images.
“In many of these cases the key breakthrough has been established through a small piece of information such as identification of objects in the background of the image that provide a vital clue to investigators.
“This innovative project seeks to use the global reach of the internet to allow the public to contribute to this investigation process and to play a real part in the global prevention of child abuse.”
The website found at www.europol.europa.eu/stopchildabuse is designed to enable anonymous tip-offs.
Europol last year warned that online child pornography including the live-streaming of child sexual abuse was on the rise.
Criminals and paedophile networks often use the “Dark Web” and the Tor encryption system to mask their identities and distribute child sex abuse images online.