Projects aim to reduce child exploitation material

Two new federally-funded Griffith University projects are set to help police in the fight against child exploitation material.

Led by Professor Martine Powell (Centre for Investigative Interviewing) and Associate Professor Benoit Leclerc (Griffith Criminology Institute), the projects are part of the Australian Institute of Criminology’s Child Exploitation Material (CEM) Reduction Program.

The first project aims to improve the ways police assume the identity of juveniles during undercover CEM investigations.

“Police from law enforcement agencies frequently pose as children or adolescents online to identify and proactively engage sex offenders,’’ says Professor Powell who is conducting the research with Queensland Police.

“But little research has examined how this should be done and there are currently no formal police training opportunities locally or internationally.

“There is however an urgency in covert CEM work because the longer a potential sex offender remains unidentified the more opportunity there is for that person to offend.

“The development of a set of evidence-based guidelines for playing the child will enhance police effectiveness in the identification and apprehension of offenders and position Australian police as global leaders in reducing CEM.”

Uncovering the step-by-step process (or scripts) involved in creating and distributing CEM is the aim of the project led by Associate Professor Leclerc with colleagues from the University of New South Wales and Michigan State University.

“This will boost investigators’ ability to find and neutralise CEM cases before online access to CEM occurs,’’ Associate Professor Leclerc said.

“Crime script analysis offers new avenues for situation crime prevention to operate against crime.

“By breaking down the crime commission process into a series of steps, script analysis reveals a number of different intervention points that might otherwise have remained undiscovered if the crime had been treated a single event in time and space.

“It also provides insight into what offenders are thinking and helps in understanding the rationale behind their actions.”