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Simon Bailey recently joined the Child Rescue Coalition as Director of Strategic Engagement. This role was specially created to harness his decades of service with the Norfolk Constabulary and his leading role for the United Kingdom’s national policing response to child protection and abuse investigations.

Simon is a world-renowned leader in child protection and has played a critical strategic role in many thousands of arrests utilizing our technology. We are grateful that he has agreed to join the CRC team to grow and expand the use of CRC technology that we provide free to law enforcement all over the world.

Simon first became affiliated with Child Rescue Coalition when his team began using the Child Rescue Coalition’s technology in late 2013. We sat down with Simon to learn more about his vast experience, how his work has changed over the years and what we need to do to fight the explosion of child sexual abuse around the world.

You were an officer at every rank in your 35-year law enforcement career, what did that teach you?

 It’s taught me so much over 35 years. My journey into law enforcement was at a young age. Realizing you can make a real difference has been my driver for 35 years and continues to be my driver now. As a police officer you are in a very privileged position that when people call you in times of need, you can do something about it. And if you do it well, you can make a difference.

What accomplishments are you most proud of after such a long career in law enforcement?

The highlight must be the thousands and thousands of children that we have safeguarded by targeting people that would seek to abuse them. And I have been responsible for leading a national effort, which has seen tens of thousands of offenders arrested. In the U.K., we have become the best in the world at targeting online child sexual abuse. That is my proudest achievement without a doubt.

How did you get into the child protection sector of law enforcement?

I have been a career Detective and I have served every rank from a Detective Constable to Detective Superintendent. I have always been aware of the challenges dealing with child abuse. I was not a dedicated child abuse investigator myself but coordinated cases involving child exploitation and abuse. In 2014, I was asked to lead the national response, which a huge honor. From there, I was given an opportunity to make it my own and to collaborate with international partners for eight years. While I am proud of those achievements, there is a hollow element to this. Despite a world leading response to the threat, the numbers of children that continue to be abused has grown. And the number of offenders who have a sexual interest in children also seems to be growing. While we have safeguarded more children than anyone else and arrested more offenders than anyone else in the world (that I am aware of), the challenge continues to be one of a growing number.

Let’s talk about the problem. It seems like there is more and more abuse being discussed worldwide. How pervasive is this problem?

I do not think there is any question at all that the scale of the problem has grown. A study by the home office in the U.K. showed that in the 90’s there were 10,000 images circulating of child sexual abuse material. On the child sexual abuse database now, there is approximately 21 million indecent files of children. And the only reason that has happened is the internet revolution. The revolution came about because of the availability of child sexual abuse material and ultimately digital cameras and high-quality video. Now, what you have is a growing community of people that have a sexual interest in children.

We must reconcile ourselves to the fact that in the 70’s and 80’s to view an image of a child you had to take great risks and people were not willing to take those risks.

In today’s internet enabled world, all those people that never ever have dreamed to view an image of a child or to sexually abuse a child, now are in a hugely different position where they believe they can do it, with anonymity and get away with it.

How has the pandemic exacerbated the problem of online sexual abuse?

The worrying trend that we are seeing during the pandemic is the percentage of first-generation images of child sexual abuse material that is self-generated by girls between the ages 11-13. That is a real concern. Its most imperative to educate parents, schoolteachers, and kids about the risks that, particularly, young girls are taking. Children MUST understand that if they are creating an image and sharing it in what they think is a safe place, once that image is out there, it is lost. Once it has been shared, it’s gone forever. It can then become an image that can stimulate someone that has a sexual interest in children.

What are your top tips for preventing abuse and keeping kids safe online?

I want parents to start to have an open and honest dialogue with children. I want parents to make sure their children feel safe when they are online, but most importantly to encourage them to tell them if at any point they receive something inappropriate, especially if someone contacts them. We need them to know it is important to tell their parents. And say to them, “I’ve been approached and I’m worried.”

Parents should have the conversation about nudity and the risks of sharing nude images of themselves. They need to understand once it has been shared that they can never ever recover it. Have an open conversation about the risks of the web. I do not want to discourage anyone from using the web, but have an open and honest conversation, and point out the pitfalls and risks which needs to be mitigated. If they have the right conversation and create the right environment where the young person trusts them, they will tell them about what is happening to them online. Thereby parents can take on the protective responsibility.

What does it mean to you now to be working with Child Rescue Coalition?

When I retired as police officer, I wanted to continue working in the child protection space. Trying to carry on doing whatever I could in any small way to keep children safe. And for me to be offered this position was a bit of a dream come true. It has afforded me the opportunity to continue working with likeminded professionals that care about child protection like I do. I get to partner with a non-profit that has a notable set of values and has a vision to make the world a safer place for children. And giving me the opportunity to be the Director of Strategic Engagement affords me the opportunity to carry on that fight and try to protect children.

How did CRC Technology aid you and your staff when you were working on the force to get these predators behind bars?

The proof in that pudding is that we have become the best in the world at targeting the online threat and Child Rescue Coalition was the foundation upon which we built that response. That is the greatest compliment that I can pay to Child Rescue Coalition and what Carly has done.

What CRC does, and continues to do, is provide the technology that will allow governments, law enforcement, and agencies to target the people that pose the greatest risk to children. Not everybody gets that vision, but that is what it is all about. Countries are becoming more aware and recognizing CRC technology provides a key enabler to tackle the threat.

How large is the problem of child sexual abuse material and is it too vast? Can we contain this threat?

It is already too big. But ultimately if the social media companies and tech giants take their social and moral responsibility properly and standby it, then yes, we can contain it. It is not a silver bullet, but it is a bronze bullet. There is no doubt in my mind at all, they are knowingly facilitating so much of the abuse that we are seeing. If powerful legislation, and I fear only legislation will only work here, is brought into force across the world, then the companies are going to have to take responsibility far more seriously than they already do. If only in fear of losing money, so much of the solution to this lies in the hands of the big tech firms.