Victim Identification efforts target capping offending

Fri 30-06-2023 10:13 am AEST

Last year the ACCCE reported Australian children as young as eight were being coerced into performing live-streamed sexual acts by online child sex offenders. These offenders recorded and often shared the videos on the dark net and sexually extorted victims into producing more content. 

The screen capture offending, which online offenders refer to as “capping’ (screen-capturing) is still one of the fastest growing trends of online child sexual exploitation and children are being targeted across social media and video streaming platforms. 

Given the increase in this crime, the ACCCE Victim Identification Team worked closely with Queensland Police Service Taskforce Argos, who had identified a high volume of capping victims. 

These efforts saw international counterparts come together under the ACCCE-hosted Victim Identification Taskforce Operation Blackheath. Representatives from INTERPOL, Europol and law enforcement partners in the United States, Canada and Norway joined the ACCCE and Taskforce Argos to focus on the most prolific high value targets for further investigation. With the collaborative review of intelligence within the taskforce, investigative targets grew from 30 to 47.  

ACCCE Victim Identification Capability Developer Jonas Seider said the team had been tracking some of these offenders on different forums for more than 10 years. 

“These targets pride themselves on the content they have captured of victims and some never want the victims to know they are being coerced, while some enter the exploitation phase straight away. 

“There is a lack of awareness from law enforcement globally on screen capturing and the impact it is having on vulnerable children exposing themselves to what they think are like-minded people their age. 

“We, as law enforcement, need to take action against these offenders to put an end to the exploitation of these children. We believe most of these children are unaware that their imagery is being screen captured.” 

Operation Blackheath started in October 2022 with the first of two taskforce meetings, where combined efforts collected intelligence, leveraging the databases of all participating agencies. 

The most recent taskforce meeting identified a potential country or region for a high number of these targeted offenders, identifying 14 potential targets. New referrals have been sent to several countries. 

Inquiries are continuing but six victims have been identified and 1971 media files have been uploaded to the International Child Sexual Exploitation (ICSE) database to assist in future investigations. 

This taskforce highlights the importance of our Victim Identification Team and all who work in this area nationally and internationally. This is a borderless crime, and it takes a global network to keep children protected online. 

Importantly, the ACCCE wants to reassure the public that help is available and by reporting what has happened, offenders may be identified. Children and young people are never to blame for being a victim of online child sexual exploitation. The first step of breaking the cycle is telling a trusted adult. 

For more information, visit the AFP ThinkUKnow website to access a guide for parents and carers.