Global site fights abuse

Immigration and Customs Enforcement

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A new international Web site developed by a global alliance of law enforcement agencies was launched this week to try and prevent individuals from committing child abuse online.

The new site, www.virtualglobaltaskforce.com, was led by the United Kingdom's National Crime Squad in collaboration with the technology industry there, partnering agencies in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the Australian High Tech Crime Centre and Interpol.

The site will provide information on how to use the Internet safely, such as provided by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in the United States, and provide information to help and support victims of abuse, including reporting suspected child exploitation securely and confidentially online.

Online child abuse constitutes "searching for, sharing and downloading images of children being physically and sexually abused and approaching children online with the aim of developing a sexual relationship in the 'real world,'" according to the Web site.

In a press release, Jim Gamble, NCS' deputy director general, said the task force is a unique partnership in law enforcement history.

"Child abuse is one of the worst crimes to affect today's society and we in the UK must break away from thinking that we can tackle this issue within our own borders," he said. "Internet users access a worldwide service and we must tackle abuse from a worldwide perspective. That is why strategic partnerships with partners across the globe are so vital to the success of this initiative. Police across the world must work as one on this."

According to Justice Department study cited by NCMEC, one in five children, aged 10 to 17 years old, receive unwanted sexual solicitations online.

The Virtual Global Taskforce itself was created in 2003 in response to lessons learned from investigations into online child abuse around the world. ICE's participation is part of Operation Predator, a Homeland Security Department initiative begun in July 2003 to protect children from Internet child pornographers, alien sex offenders, child sex tourists, and human traffickers. More than 4,800 individuals have been arrested nationwide and more than 860 individuals have been arrested by international law enforcement agencies based on ICE leads.

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