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You are here: Home News and media CMC media releases CMC warns parents of increased threat of internet paedophiles trawling social media sites — 02.09.2011
You are here: Home News and media CMC media releases CMC warns parents of increased threat of internet paedophiles trawling social media sites — 02.09.2011
You are here: Home News and media CMC media releases CMC warns parents of increased threat of internet paedophiles trawling social media sites — 02.09.2011

CMC warns parents of increased threat of internet paedophiles trawling social media sites — 02.09.2011

The Crime and Misconduct Commission (CMC) is alerting parents to the increasing use of social networking sites by paedophiles, posing as children in order to secure child exploitation material.

Operations Coordinator, Crime, Detective Inspector Lance Vercoe, who leads the CMC’s Cerberus Team, a multidisciplinary unit dedicated to investigating criminal paedophilia, says this explicit material — including both photos and videos of children —is then shared online with global paedophile networks.

He sent out the warning ahead of Child Protection Week (4-10 September).

‘We know that at any given time, paedophiles are trawling through social networking sites, targeting children and looking for opportunities to deliberately groom them,’ Detective Inspector Vercoe said, stressing the phenomenon was global in reach.

‘In the majority of cases there’s nothing sophisticated about the way they target their victims — it’s pretty much a numbers game: if they fail to engage a victim, then they move onto another until they get a bite. They know the language children use and how to impersonate them.’

Of concern, and despite public warnings, Detective Inspector Vercoe said young girls in particular were still sending photos of themselves over the internet to ‘strangers’.

‘Most of our victims are young girls who engage in innocent conversations, which quickly move to the point where they are divulging personal details to offenders,’ he said.

‘It can quickly escalate to the sharing of photos or video streaming and, in some reported cases, the offender will threaten to forward the photos to friends or teachers unless the girls provide more explicit material.

‘This type of blackmailing is very difficult for young children to deal with and in many cases they are too embarrassed to tell friends or family.

‘So, our message to parents is to reinforce to their children that whilst social networking sites provide a great way to maintain contact with friends, the same environment provides internet-based paedophiles opportunities to engage them.

‘If children suspect they are being “groomed”, they should not only block them, but report the incident to their parents, instead of perhaps simply shrugging it off as action by “weirdos”. Their actions could save another child from becoming a victim.’

The CMC’s Cerberus Team, which focuses on ‘niche’ areas of networked or recidivist extra-familial offending, including a focus on internet-based paedophile networks, has run 37 operations and charged 39 people with 368 offences in the past three years.

In the last financial year alone, 12 people were charged with 122 offences relating to possessing, distributing and producing child exploitation material. Among them was a registered sex offender recently released from jail on child sex offences.

‘This offender’s actions were typical of the type of offending we see by internet paedophiles,’ Detective Inspector Vercoe said.

‘He was identified using free WIFI connections to share child exploitation material. Our investigations established that within only a few short months of his release, he had established contact with a number of victims and other paedophiles within Australia and overseas.

‘The offender had a number of external storage devices loaded with more than 15GB of child exploitation material. He also admitted to posing as an 11-year-old boy to actively groom victims in various chat rooms.

‘He was located and arrested almost immediately thanks to the training that our investigators have received. But our eyes can’t be everywhere, all the time, online.’

In a bid to stay ahead of offenders, Cerberus investigators work in close partnership with the Queensland Police Service’s (QPS) Taskforce Argos and undergo constant training in the latest investigative software, also involving collaboration with international law enforcement agencies.

The Cerberus Team is supported by the CMC’s Forensic Computing Unit, which acts once offenders have been apprehended, interrogating computer systems looking for evidence to substantiate charges and identifying information which may lead to the identification of potential victims or other paedophiles.

‘The biggest challenge for law enforcement is tracking down the high end paedophiles,’ Detective Inspector Vercoe said.

‘Like any other criminal entity, their methodology of offending evolves over time. They are constantly seeking new opportunities to target children, constantly devising new ways of contacting each other, constantly sharing information about law enforcement methodologies and constantly covering their tracks through the use of encryption and evidence wiping software.

‘Our message is simple: paedophiles will not stop their attempts to engage children via the internet and whilst the CMC and the QPS proactively target these offenders, we rely heavily on parents to maintain an open communication with their children about the dangers associated with social networking sites.’

Read more about how to protect your children.

Last updated: 19 November 2012
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