After seven years inside Strike Force Trawler, the specialised unit within the Child Abuse Squad that uses online stings to catch would-be child abusers, Senior Detective Alfaro has seen a lot.
He and the unit’s 21 other investigators spend their days online, impersonating children or paedophiles who share child abuse material.
Once enough evidence for a police brief has been gathered, a meet-up is arranged and the would-be child abuser is arrested.
It’s harrowing work, but worthwhile, he says from Trawler’s Parramatta headquarters – an incongruously bright and chatty workplace at first blush, but where signs urge employees to look after their mental health – “Have you talked to a colleague about what you did today?” – and a whiteboard featuring complex aliases, timelines, passwords and cover stories looms large.
“I think there’s nothing greater than protecting children. It’s very rewarding,” he said. “There’s nothing greater than putting the handcuffs on at the end of the day. It’s about stopping the offending before it happens.”
“I think there’s nothing greater than protecting children. It’s very rewarding.”
Detective Senior Constable Antonio Alfaro
The detectives have ways to deal with the horrors that confront them daily – strong family relationships, compartmentalising, exercise and a supportive workplace – but some things stick, they say.
“It is the volume. Something about the combination of sound and image,” agreed Detective Senior Constable Susanne Dahal, one of the 10 new investigators who joined the team in September this year.