As seven people were charged following Taskforce Argos raids across Brisbane this week in the lead up to school holidays, the Queensland Police Service is issuing an urgent warning to parents about the methodologies being used by predators online to target young children.
Detectives from State Crime Operations Command’s Taskforce Argos with the assistance of the Child and Sexual Crime Unit executed search warrants on residences in Strathpine, Blackstone, Sunnybank Hills, Eagleby, Caboolture, Kingston and Marsden.
The raids form part of the ongoing Operation Beau, which commenced in 2001 to proactively identify serious child related sexual offences (including the indecent treatment of children) and apprehend those who possess and distribute child exploitation material.
Detective Inspector Jon Rouse, who has campaigned for safe internet use and worked to combat serious sexual offending against children for over 14 years, is concerned at the evolving methodologies being used by predators online.
“What is currently of significant concern to us is the escalation in offences originating from social networking sites, the majority of which have extremely good security protocols that if used correctly would stop the online abuse. This is not a throwaway line we use to scare parents into teaching children safe internet use, it is a fact.
“We are now regularly identifying and arresting people that create online accounts and pose as 11 to 13-year-old boys and girls to befriend other young children. Very quickly online conversations become sexualised with the offenders sending pornographic images to the children and asking the child to send pictures back. What can come next is the worst case scenario – they try to meet the child,” he said.
“In addition to this we are seeing an increase in the number of offenders targeting children through online and web based gaming sites and through live streaming web camera – or ‘cam’ sites,” Detective Inspector Rouse said.
Acting Detective Superintendent George Marchesini of the Child Safety and Sexual Crime Group said parents must be vigilant and ensure their children are taught how to use the internet safely from a young age.
“The buck stops with parents. Research suggests that 25% of social networking users last year were children under the age of 10. Over 60% of parents reported they did not know privacy controls existed on social networking sites or how to enable them.
“Parenting is tough and while there is no official handbook, my advice to you is that you should treat teaching your child about safe internet use with the same or even a higher priority as teaching them to cross the road safely.
“More and more children are being left to navigate the internet on their own,” Acting Detective Superintendent Marchesini said.
Charges from the raids include:
• On June 3, a 42-year-old Blackstone man charged with two counts of use internet to procure children under 16 and two counts of possessing child exploitation material. Police allege this man was posing online as a 13-year-old girl. He was bailed to appear in Ipswich Magistrates Court on June 19.
• On June 4, a 27-year-old Strathpine man was charged with two counts of using the internet to procure a child under under 16. He is due to appear in Petrie Magistrates Court on June 25.
• On June 7, a 35-year-old Sunnybank Hills man was charged with two counts of possession of child exploitation material and one count of importation of child pornography material (Commonwealth Customs Act). He was bailed to appear in Brisbane Magistrates Court on June 28.
• On June 7, a 34-year-old Eagleby man was charged with one count of using the internet to procure a child under 16 and two counts of use internet to expose child under 16. He was due to appear in Brisbane Magistrates Court on June 8.
• On June 8, a 20-year-old Caboolture man was charged with four counts of possessing child exploitation material and one count of use carriage service to access child pornography material (Commonwealth Criminal Code). He has been bailed to appear in Caboolture Magistrates Court on July 2.
• On June 8, a 50-year-old Kingston man was charged with two counts of use internet to procure a child under 16. He was bailed to appear in the Beenleigh Magistrates Court at a later date.
• Last night, a 47-year-old Marsden man charged with two counts of possession of child exploitation material and one count of use carriage service to access child pornography material. He will appear in Brisbane Magistrates Court on Monday.
“As law enforcement agencies across Australia and globally increase technical capability and forge partnerships with internet service providers and industry groups, results like we have achieved this week will increase and should serve as a warning to those who utilise the internet to prey on children. It is only a matter of time before you are detected,” Detective Inspector Rouse said.
Taskforce Argos has developed the “Who’s Chatting to your Kids?” program to provide advice to parents on steps they can take to protect their children online and the “Surf Safely” program to provide advice to children on measures they can adopt to protect themselves.
Further information can be located at: http://www.police.qld.gov.au/programs/cscp/personalSafety/children/childProtection/
Anyone with information which could assist police with their investigations should contact Crime Stoppers anonymously via 1800 333 000 or crimestoppers.com.au 24hrs a day.
Crime Stoppers is a charitable community volunteer organisation working in partnership with the Queensland Police Service.