Predator detection’ software helps MPS target child sex offender

Predator detection software saved the police hundreds of man hours by sifting through a dangerous child sex offender’s 5,000 web chats and identifying his vulnerable young targets.

Jun 7, 2012
By Paul Jacques

Predator detection software saved the police hundreds of man hours by sifting through a dangerous child sex offender’s 5,000 web chats and identifying his vulnerable young targets.

Web safety experts Crisp Thinking, specialists in community management software, used its Kids & Teens program, which usually monitors live web chats, to quickly process six years’ worth of online grooming history that Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) officers found on a 46-year-old sex offender’s computer and flag up the girls he had targeted – some as young as ten years old.

Crisp used its Kids & Teens technology in a pilot project with the MPS to highlight Allen’s potential young victims and girls he communicated with who may still be vulnerable targets for other online predators.

The program saved the hundreds of man-hours that it would have taken the MPS to manually examine more than 5,000 chat logs.

Acting Detective Chief Inspector Noel McHugh, from the MPS’s Paedophile Unit, said: “The message is clear, we will use all lawful methods to capture paedophiles, and we are constantly looking for technological solutions to apprehend the most dangerous offenders and to safeguard the most vulnerable. We faced a mammoth task in reading through over 5,000 logs, some running to pages. For an officer to manually read every page would have taken a considerable amount of time.”

Already safeguarding young web users for companies such as Nickelodeon, Cartoon Network and Ubisoft, Crisp’s Kids & Teens program works by using constantly updated data from real incidences of web grooming to catch out potential online abusers.

Twenty-seven-year-old Adam Hildreth, founder of Leeds-based Crisp, devised the behaviour analysis technology in 2005 as an antidote to simple keyword filtering, which frequently blocks innocent online interactions and consequently drives young users to less restrictive websites that potentially put them in danger.

Allen, of Wigston, Leicestershire, is currently serving a four-year, eight-month jail sentence for a range of child sex offences after being caught in a sting operation by the MPS in December last year.

The data Crisp processed from Allen’s computer is still being used in an on-going investigation by the MPS.

Det Chief Insp McHugh added that child sex offenders like Allen were exploiting the anonymity of the internet and young people are being urged to exercise caution when communicating online.

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