Ending a Global Epidemic
Collaboration is key in creating a safer world for our children
By: Maura Harty, ICMEC President & CEO
At the International Centre for Missing & Exploited Children (ICMEC), we advocate, train and collaborate to eradicate child abduction, sexual abuse and exploitation. And when it comes to protecting society’s most vulnerable citizens, we know the only way to create a safer world is to bring together the best ideas and resources that the public and private sector have to offer.
For years, child exploitation and child sexual abuse material has affected communities worldwide – with no one place immune to such horrific crimes. We have found that 82 percent of sexually explicit images are of children younger than 12 years old, and the sheer number of images is increasing. With a problem so widespread, how does one go about tackling this international issue? At ICMEC, we focus our efforts on multiple fronts, while taking a methodical approach. We believe this is key to ensuring our efforts have the best chance of making a difference.
Building the best technology toolkit
ICMEC helps identify gaps in the community’s ability to protect children and provide resources for those on the frontlines – whether it’s law enforcement, educators or medical professionals. One such area that we work to fill, along with Project VIC, is supplying law enforcement working on child exploitation cases with access to the best technology resources available. However, in order for us to provide these tools, we often rely on donations from the private sector and international partners.
With Griffeye Analyze, one of our most recent and important technology donations, law enforcement is able to shorten the time it takes to search through photograph databases, and thereby decrease the burnout factor associated with the job. With the help of this platform, law enforcement has been able to save hundreds of children’s lives with support from ICMEC and Project VIC. Without the help of Analyze technology, investigators often spend days or weeks searching through images and videos to find new evidence – and even then sometimes there isn’t enough time to look all the images. This means wasted time and missed leads.
Pro bono donations like Analyze continue to fuel the change we have worked so hard to accomplish in the past 15 years.
Making a real difference in children’s lives
ICMEC recently completed a survey of law enforcement professionals to understand how the tools we provide are actually working in the field. The results were outstanding and I personally was overwhelmed by the comments – one law officer said that within 10 minutes he was able to identify over 100 videos and images. Another field investigator noted that the team was able to rescue a child within 24 hours of the search warrant due to the donated technology and use of established databases that holds previously identified images (e.g. Project VIC), which speeds up the review process by finding pertinent and new material.
With my experience in the State Department and work in non-profit organizations, I have seen firsthand that nothing unites adults – no matter their background – more than the welfare of children. We are strength in numbers and it is empowering to work with those like the team at NetClean and Griffeye that feel as strongly as I do about ending child exploitation. While we have made great strides, our job is far from over and we must all continue to work together – private and public sector – to provide the best resources to those in charge of protecting our children.