'Predator detection' software is police's high-tech weapon against paedophiles

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

Web safety experts Crisp used its Kids & Teens program, which usually monitors live web chats, to quickly process six years' worth of online grooming history police found on a 46-year-old sex offender's computer and flag up the girls he had targeted.

Most of supermarket worker Andrew Allen's chat logs appeared to be with vulnerable young girls - some as young as 10-years-old - and many individual chats went on for pages.

In a groundbreaking partnership between law enforcers and web safety specialists, Crisp used its Kids & Teens technology in a pilot project with the Metropolitan police to highlight Allen's potential young victims and girls he communicated with who may still be vulnerable targets for other online predators.

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

Acting Detective Chief Inspector Noel McHugh, from the Met's Paedophile Unit, said on Tuesday: "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.

Adam Hildreth, founder of Leeds-based Crisp, said: "We're delighted Kids & Teens was able to help the Met get through such a large amount of important data in the most efficient and timely way possible."

The 27-year-old entrepreneur invented Crisp's 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.

"Crisp's aim is to protect young people online without restricting their enjoyment," Hildreth added. "In the future we hope predators like Allen won't be able to use the web to groom children, but we're happy that we were able to help highlight his potential victims so quickly."

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 Met in December last year.

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

DCI McHugh added, "I believe that Allen has committed further crimes and I would therefore urge anyone who believes they may have been a victim to have the confidence to report the incident to police. We are here to support and protect you.

"I would urge young people to exercise caution and be confident that they know who they are communicating with online. Be especially careful when giving out your personal details or when agreeing to meet someone - talk it through with your parent, guardian or a trusted adult. Paedophiles like Allen are exploiting the anonymity of the internet."

▪ Visit the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre website via related links.

▪ The MPS investigation team can be contacted via related contacts

Alternatively contact Crimestoppers or Childline via related contacts or report the matter to your local police station, or inform a teacher or trusted individual."

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