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Not all sexual predators the same, expert teaches

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Dr. Joe Sullivan, a forensic psychologist from Ireland, is in Winnipeg sharing his expertise on sexual predators with police, social workers and border guards.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Dr. Joe Sullivan, a forensic psychologist from Ireland, is in Winnipeg sharing his expertise on sexual predators with police, social workers and border guards. Photo Store

HE figures he has sat across the table from thousands of sexual predators trying to figure out what makes them tick.

Now a renowned expert on child exploitation has brought his skills to Winnipeg to help protect local children from being victimized.

Dr. Joe Sullivan, a forensic psychologist from Ireland, is currently spending two weeks in Winnipeg leading workshops with more than 150 police officers, social workers, border guards and justice officials.

It's the first project of its kind in Canada and one all parties agree will better protect the most vulnerable of society.

"I don't believe there is a cure for being sexually interested in children," Sullivan told a news conference Tuesday during a break from one of the training sessions.

And it's because of that -- combined with the fact virtually all offenders will eventually be released -- that Sullivan stresses the importance of education and awareness. He relies on data collected from 350 pedophiles he's studied closely over the years, sharing that knowledge in hopes of getting a better read on how to prevent and detect sex crimes.

'It's long-term, preventative, proactive," said Insp. Gord Perrier of the Winnipeg police major crimes unit.

Sullivan's workshops examine risk assessment, management in the community and offender use of technology, which is a rapidly emerging area of both targeting and enforcement.

"Offenders aren't all the same," said Sullivan, who began his career as a probation officer before taking his masters in criminology and psychology.

One of the areas he focuses on is "progressive interview techniques," which he's learned can be the key to preventing future offending, finding victims and ensuring prosecutions.

Sullivan has consulted on notorious cases around the world, including the Madeleine McCann mystery. She was just three years old when she vanished from a Portuguese holiday resort in 2007.

The case remains open and police recently said she may still be alive.

Sullivan said Tuesday he was impressed with how Winnipeg police wanted to "draw in their partner organizations" to the workshops, realizing the benefit of such a move.

"Not always do we find police services thinking ahead," he said.

Perrier said the feedback from officers has been tremendous.

"They're saying, 'I'm finally walking out of this with real tools in my hand,' " he said. "I hope Winnipeg becomes a hub for this type of training."

Sandie Stoker, executive director of the Child and Family All Nations Coordinated Response Network, said Sullivan's knowledge is especially important, considering her workers frequently come in contact with children being abused and exploited.

"We're all invested in the protection of children. This is a tremendous opportunity for our investigators," she said.

www.mikeoncrime.com

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 28, 2013 A3

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