Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) affects the youngest and most vulnerable in society; with risk factors including emotional instability, social isolation, poverty and prior histories of abuse, it's not difficult to imagine how cases can often go undetected.
Whilst it's easy to think that the problem of CSE is distant from the UK, this is sadly incorrect; and National Crime Agency figures suggest that around 560 children were trafficked in to the UK for Sexual Exploitation last year, whilst over 2,400 children were abused at the hands of gangs and organised groups during 2010. (Stats via the NSPCC)
To compound matters, technological advances mean that those involved can share their materials online - via anonymised networks that permeate through borders and contain connections spanning the globe. In one example a joint Europol and FBI operation led to an astonishing 870 arrests for one network alone, unfortunately this investigation was actually targeting a website with a shocking 150,000+ users.
Needless to say that these form of investigations - ones that not only involve a huge number of individuals, but also span the entirety of the globe - present a fair few challenges. And this is where you can help: Europol regularly upload images of objects they need more information on, objects that may well be familiar to you.
The most innocent clues can sometimes help crack a case. The objects are all taken from the background of an image with sexually explicit material involving minors. For all images below, every other investigative avenue has already been examined. Therefore we are requesting your assistance in identifying the origin of some of these objects. We are convinced that more eyes will lead to more leads and will ultimately help to save these children.
It's all done online, it takes a few minutes, all the images are of simple every day items or rooms, and submitting information is as time-consuming as sending a tweet.
So when you're sitting over your desk this afternoon eating your lunch, or browsing the internet on your phone during the evening commute, spare a thought for Europol and the work they do, and see if you recognise any of the items on their site.