Police officers are becoming better equipped to handle child sexual abuse investigations
In the NetClean Report 2016, 91.8 per cent of police officers surveyed said that they feel better prepared to handle child sexual abuse investigations this year, compared to the previous year.
One of the reasons for this positive change is Project VIC, which is a programme aimed at ensuring that the police have better tools, work processes and training, to efficiently and effectively deal with the massive amounts of data being seized as a result of child exploitation investigations.
We asked Richard W Brown, National Association to Protect Children, Protect.org and Project Coordinator for Project VIC, USA. to elaborate on how Project VIC has improved the work of law enforcement.
Project VIC – changing the nature of investigations
Richard W Brown, National Association to Protect Children, Protect.org and Project Coordinator for Project VIC, USA
I am delighted to see that Project VIC is mentioned as one of the main reasons that investigators feel better prepared to handle child sexual abuse investigations. I would also say that in many ways better tools and more education are interlinked with Project VIC.
We’ve gone from working with five single agencies to over 40 countries. Since the start, Project VIC has helped save thousands of children in the United States alone, while the total number could be in the thousands more worldwide. We are seeing news stories of children being saved almost every week.
At its base, Project VIC is not a unique idea; international sharing is something that law enforcement has been and is trying to seek out. The difference is that Project VIC has been able to execute it in a way that makes sense to them. Through strong technology partnerships, open standards, training programmes and cloud services, even police forces that would not otherwise have the resources, and police officers who historically would not have had that role, are working to identify and save children.
Project VIC represents a paradigm shift
At the start of Project VIC we had a vision of creating a paradigm shift from “just” seizing material and prosecuting offenders, to finding sophisticated ways to reduce workload and most importantly shift the focus to a victim centric approach. It took a couple of years to mature, but we are now at the point where we are delivering large amounts of data to law enforcement agencies worldwide and successfully changing the nature of investigations and legacy processes. We do this by delivering the best technologies, tools and training.
We’ve seen a multiplying effect in the last few years where the adoption rate of tool providers has accelerated sharply. In the beginning we needed to encourage tool providers to adopt our protocol. Now they are knocking at our door, asking how to get involved.
Better training leads to more cases solved
Simultaneously, training has played an important role in making people aware of what we can achieve by combining rich data and great tools and technologies. We’ve seen multiple cases where people have received training, gone back to their agencies to run through old or current cases and within hours or days saved children that would otherwise have been missed.
The more momentum we get, the better the Project can be. Our next big leap is the Project VIC Global Alert System, which is a new and innovative way to crowdsource victim identification internationally. Basically, investigators will be able to submit information and data about images to the whole Project VIC international community and the system will then send an alert if there is someone else within the community working with similar data. This is a great example of the kind of ideas that come out of Project VIC Innovation and Tech Summits and how we can swiftly transform an idea into a game changing system. The first beta version should be up and running in the first quarter next year*.
* Note: An update as the article was written in October 2016. The release of the beta version of Project VIC Global Alert System has been slightly delayed, but the work is in progress.