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A tech-savvy net of child porn

Sex crimes investigators around the world will need to step up their technological know-how as child pornography becomes more mobile and difficult to detect, a veteran of Toronto police's sex crimes unit told.

india Updated: Oct 04, 2005 17:22 IST

Sex crimes investigators around the world will need to step up their technological know-how as child pornography becomes more mobile and difficult to detect, a veteran of Toronto police's sex crimes unit told an international conference on Monday. Handheld devices including cell phones, Personal Digital Assistants, or PDAs, and portable MP3 players will increasingly be used to take and transfer images of child pornography - and the city's police force is leading the world in devising new investigative techniques to crack down on the constantly evolving crime, said Sgt. Paul Gillespie.

Gillespie spoke Monday about the Toronto force's Child Exploitation Tracking System on the first day of a five-day international conference on how police departments investigate and prevent the exploitation of children.

"In a couple of years you're not going to have big PCs that sit on your desk," Gillespie told The Canadian Press, adding that smaller gadgets will be able to store more depraved images. "Everything's going to be in the size of a (mobile) telephone that has the computing power of 10 of the best PCs that are out there right now. Everything's going to be portable, mobile, wireless - that's just going to pose huge challenges for law enforcement and I'm not sure what the answer is."

The "tip of the iceberg" was the arrest of a 36-year-old man last month for using a cell phone camera to take digital photographs under the skirts of young girls in the city's east end, said Gillespie, a veteran of the Toronto police force. "The criminals were very early to exploit the powers of the Internet to their own advantage and I think law enforcement took several years to realize it," said Gillespie, adding that child pornographers are sharing the latest trends in technology via online newsgroups and chat rooms.

Gillespie steers Toronto's child exploitation unit, an elite squad of 17 officers established five years ago which has become world renowned. Law enforcement agencies from every continent have asked Toronto police for investigative advice and their expertise. By borrowing technology used by Scotland Yard and the FBI, the unit has developed a global reputation of being on the cutting edge of child pornography investigations.

In April, Toronto police and Microsoft Canada launched the Child Exploitation Tracking System, or CETS, a national database that allows investigators to type in an e-mail address, credit-card number or even an online handle to track child sex offenders. The unit is credited with playing a big role in the finding a young girl who appeared in a series of sexually explicit photos taken at a Walt Disney World hotel in Orlando. The girl, originally from Russia, was adopted when she was 5 by the man accused of selling the photos of her on the Internet for three years.