Cops add image-matching to anti-paedophile arsenal

Cold cases to be reviewed as new system goes national

Police across Australia will crack down on child pornography with an image matching platform in development in Queensland that is set to go national at the end of the year.

The system will identify and match hundreds of thousands of child abuse images located on suspects’ hard drives and stored in the Australian National Victim Image Library (ANVIL), and tie them to solved and cold cases.

Government technology agency Crimtrac estimates 20,000 new child exploitation images appear on the Internet each week through some 100,000 websites, paid portals and peer-to-peer sites. About 100,000 of the 500,000 images estimated to be in circulation are original.

State police agencies have no way of knowing if a seized image is original, or is part of a solved, open or cold case in another state.

Queensland Detective Senior Sergeant, Wayne Steinhart, said the system will image-match to determine if a suspect has duplicate images, or is involved in new acts of child abuse.

“Detectives spend hundreds of hours sifting through child abuse images to discover child exploitation on an offenders’ computer — it could be 100,000 images which is overwhelming, but our role is to identify victims,” Stienhart said.

“We won’t know if suspects have committed new offences unless we have eyeballed each image.”

The Child Exploitation System (CETS) is under trial by the Queensland Police and the Australian Federal Police. It uses image recognition and hash functions to identify groups of images that involve the same victim in order to gather evidence for investigation.

“It’s not nice work… the system saves the operator from that work,” Steinhart said, adding the CETS and ANVIL will provide a complete system from “seizure to storage”.

The system was built in 2005 by Canadian police services and regional Microsoft developers for more than $11 million, and is used by 25 of the nation’s police forces. The United Kingdom, the US and Italy are some of the countries that use and share data from the CETS, and according to CrimTrac national manager of law enforcement systems, Stewart Cross, has led to the dismantling of “at least” three international paedophile rings.

Steinhart said online child exploitation material is distributed evenly between websites and peer-to-peer networks and said the government’s Internet content filter will help restrict access to child porn websites.

It is expected to go live in Queensland after the trial business case is presented to Australia’s police ministers at the Ministerial Council for Police and Emergency Management Police in July.

Steinhart said there is no substance to rumours that Microsoft had planned to pull support for CETS.

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Tags crimtracqueensland police serviceChild pornographyAustralian National Victim Image Library (ANVIL)Child Exploitation System (CETS)

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