Police say these objects could be key to catching paedophiles

On their own, the nine images appear innocuous. In fact, it is hard to immediately tell exactly what all of them show.

One is clearly of a child’s shirt. Another looks to be a cap.

But Australian Federal Police believe these everyday items, like sheets, logos and cabinets, hold clues that are key to cracking cold cases of child sexual abuse.

The objects have been directly lifted from disturbing videos or pictures then digitally enhanced.

From today, they will be posted online for the first time.

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Community asked to ‘Trace an Object’ and help solve child sexual abuse investigations

TRIGGER WARNING: The following content contains images that may be distressing to some people.

***Editor’s note: images and footage related to this initiative can be downloaded via Hightail.***

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) has today released images extracted from child sexual abuse cold cases under a world-leading project to rescue more children.

The ‘Stop Child Abuse – Trace an Object’ initiative is publishing nine non-confrontational images that can be seen in child exploitation material, such as pieces of clothing or bedding.

Investigators believe the victims are in the Asia Pacific region, including Australia, and are calling on the public to view the images and contact the AFP-led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) if they recognise the objects.

The project was developed and today launched by the ACCCE and is based on the highly-successful initiative devised by Europol.

AFP Assistant Commissioner Lesa Gale said the images released were from cases investigators were yet to solve.

“No child is ever forgotten and investigators never give up. Child sexual abuse is abhorrent and we need every member of the community to be our eyes and ears to help police save victims and arrest perpetrators,’’ Assistant Commissioner Gale said.

“Please look at the images at visit https://www.accce.gov.au/report/trace These images include pieces of clothing, furniture and household items.

“If you recognise an object and any details about its origin – be it from a shop, location or time period – please report it via the ACCCE website. You can do so securely and anonymously.

“No clue is too small. Your small tip could be the information we need to rescue a child from significant harm.

The public can also follow the ACCCE on Facebook and Twitter for regular updates on objects uploaded to the website.

Assistant Commissioner Gale said the ACCCE’s world-leading Victim Identification Unit examines the most abhorrent material imaginable, frame by frame, looking for clues and commonalities.

Team Leader of Europol’s Analysis Project Twins Cathal Delaney said their ongoing initiative has so far resulted in the removal of 10 children from harm and arrest of three offenders, with authorities overseas receiving 26,000 tips, identifying 102 objects and launching several ongoing investigations.

“Europol launched Trace an Object in 2017 to use the reach of the internet to help investigators identify the victims of child sexual exploitation. Thanks to the tips received through the platform, we have so far been able to rescue with our partners ten children, victims of the most horrific kind of abuse. These children would not have been identified if it were not for Trace an Object,” Mr Delaney said.

“We are very excited for this project to launch outside of Europe for the very first time. We believe it will contribute to saving more children. Please help the ACCCE identify these objects. Your one piece of information could lead to the rescue of a child down the line.”

The production of child sexual abuse material is getting worse and on an industrial scale. In the early-to-mid 2000s, a child sex offender had about 1000 images, now it’s estimated to be between 10,000 to 80,000 images and videos.

In 2020, the AFP charged 191 people with 1847 alleged child abuse-related offences (between 1 January and 31 December 2020) and removed 89 children from harm.

The ACCCE is committed to stopping child exploitation and abuse and is at the centre of a collaborative national approach to combatting organised child abuse.

The ACCCE brings together specialist expertise and skills in a central hub, supporting investigations into child sexual abuse and developing prevention strategies focused on creating a safer online environment.

View the nine images at https://www.accce.gov.au/report/trace.

You can report inappropriate behaviour towards children online via the Report Abuse button at www.accce.gov.au/report.


Note to media:


The correct legal term is Child Abuse Material – the move to this wording was among amendments to Commonwealth legislation in 2019 to more accurately reflect the gravity of the crimes and the harm inflicted on victims.

Use of the phrase “child pornography” is inaccurate and benefits child sex abusers because it:

  • indicates legitimacy and compliance on the part of the victim and therefore legality on the part of the abuser; and
  • conjures images of children posing in ‘provocative’ positions, rather than suffering horrific abuse.

Every photograph or video captures an actual situation where a child has been abused.

This AFP news release was sourced from:

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