Meet the woman who spends her days impersonating children online, lying in wait to be approached by child sex offenders.
Airdate: 
Monday, October 26, 2015 - 19:30
Channel: 
SBS Two

Task Force Argos is branch of the Queensland Police Service’s Child Safety and Sexual Crime Group. Established in 1997 when the internet was still in its infancy, the specialised unit has played a key role, both locally and internationally, in tracking down producers and consumers of child exploitation materials and online predators.

The force includes a number of officers who spend time on a number of social media sites, taking on various covert identities as children and underage teenagers to identify sex offenders who target children online.

“It’s part of the job to be able to recognise when innocent chat is likely to turn into something more sinister,” said Detective Sergeant Kathryn Ford, one of the officers on the task force.

“Grooming strategies are commonly used; making a child feel comfortable, making them feel safe, really establishing that trusting relationship in order to take the next step,” she said.

While the task force cannot reveal which platforms they are active on, they include both household names and smaller niche sites.

Keeping up with new online forums and social networking platforms is part of the job, as well as being aware of ever-evolving teenager online vernacular. They use real child victims’ chat logs with offenders to maintain a working knowledge both of grooming techniques and trending language.

“The internet is a wonderful way to learn things,” she said.

Once an in-person meeting is arranged, Detective Ford is part of the team on the ground who apprehends the offender.

“Child sex offenders come from all walks of life,” she said. “They can be a blue collar worker or someone who has a high career or degree - it doesn’t really shock us who we come into contact with because they’re such a varied group of people.”