Qld Police moves against online child exploitation

'Every photo is a crime scene,' according to Queensland Police Service, which has launched a new system to help investigators battle crimes against children.
Written by Tim Lohman, Contributor

The Queensland Police Service (QPS) has flicked the switch on a new system that will dramatically aid its ability to catch and prosecute those engaged in crimes against children.

The system, based around EMC's Isilon NAS storage, is part of QPS' Statewide Access to Seized Digital Evidence (SASDE) project, which seeks to better store and manage digital evidence as well as increase officers' access to evidence in case building and prosecution.

The project will also improve QPS' ability to identify offenders as well as victims, reduce the service's backlog of open cases, and minimise failed prosecutions.

According to QPS detective acting inspector Craig Weatherley, the project responds to both the global growth in child exploitation material and the increasing digitisation of criminal evidence.

"The world has gone digital, and we need to find a way to respond to and manage all that evidence," he said. "It places enormous pressure on the investigators on the ground in gathering the evidence, getting it to our forensic experts who analyse it, then give timely feedback back to our investigators in the field to help them solve crimes.

"In the child exploitation space, we treat every photograph essentially as a crime scene, which means that in every photo there is a child at risk, there is a child which has had a crime committed against it, and we leave no stone unturned in trying to identify the perpetrator and rescue that child from further harm."

Explaining the rise in the amount of material QPS now has to deal with, detective inspector George Marchesini said that 10 years ago, a big seizure might have included between 100 and 1,000 images, whereas seizures today could include 1TB worth of material or images numbering in the hundreds of thousands.

In addition to a vastly higher number of images, more high-definition content as well as video means that storage and the ability to transfer this content between forensics experts and investigators in a timely and secure fashion was needed.

"The evidence used to sit on servers in police headquarters, and the timeliness of getting evidence back out [to investigators] became an issue," QPS' Weatherley said. "We had to send digital packages in USBs or hard drives across the state, so the timeliness wasn't there.

"With the new [system] we can piggy-back on to the Queensland Police network, and people will be able to access [evidence] straight away. They can view images, and that will give us the chance to more quickly identify victims and offenders."

Weatherley added that the new system would also allow QPS to better integrate with anti-exploitation initiatives in other jurisdictions. These include the Child Exploitation Tracking System (CETS) hosted by Interpol, and the Australian National Victim Image Library (ANVIL).

Combined, the two systems help police cut down on duplications in casework by identifying exploitation images that have already been used in prosecutions or which include victims who are already known to police or have been rescued.

Looking at the broader applicability of the system, Weatherley added that QPS has begun assessing whether evidence could be streamed from QPS to the state's courtrooms for use in a range of different criminal prosecutions.

In July, it was announced that QPS would be trialling its new mobile app with the iPad mini, beginning in October.

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