Thirty search warrants have been executed and ten people charged as part of an ongoing operation targeting the sharing of child abuse material on Peer 2 Peer (P2P) networks.
Detectives from the Joint Anti-Child Exploitation Team (JACET) have been co-ordinating the state-wide operation with investigators from local Sexual Offence and Child Abuse Investigation Teams (SOCIT), Crime Investigation Units and the Australian Federal Police.
So far, 10 people have been charged with various state and commonwealth offences including possess, access, and make available child abuse material, including:
• A 38-year-old Langwarrin man, who was also charged with possess prohibited weapons after imitation firearms and other weapons were located during the warrant.
• A 40-year-old Mooroolbark man, whose firearms licence was also suspended due to unsafe storage.
• A 26-year-old man from the North Eastern suburbs, who was charged with 1 count of possess child abuse material.
• A 48-year-old male from the Northern suburbs who was charged with one count of possess child abuse material, and one count of distribute child abuse material.
• A 52-year-old male from the South Eastern suburbs who was found to be in possession of over 317,000 alleged child abuse files and was charged with 1 count of possess child abuse material and 2 counts of access child abuse material.
• A 76-year-old male from Regional Victoria who was charged with 1 count of possess child abuse material, and 1 count of access child abuse material.
A further 17 people have been interviewed by police and released pending further enquiries or with the intent to charge on summons.
Five investigations have also been referred interstate.
The operation, which concluded in March this year, has seen JACET detectives working with other specialist investigators within the Finance and Cyber Crime Division to identify those responsible for hosting and sharing child abuse material, as well as analysing a growing number of electronic devices seized under warrant.
More warrants will be executed, and charges laid in the coming months.
Anyone with information about child abuse material is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or make a confidential report at www.crimestoppersvic.com.au
If you suspect a child is in immediate danger, contact triple zero (000) or your local police.
Quotes attributed to Detective Superintendent Jane Welsh of the Finance and Cyber Crime Division:
Detective Superintendent Jane Welsh said police had seen an increasing amount of child abuse material being shared on P2P networks and other platforms throughout the pandemic.
“Our focus is to identify those involved at every level, regardless of whether it’s production, sharing, or viewing child abuse material”
“The people we have identified so far are wide ranging in age and occupation. The youngest is in their 20s the oldest is 76, and they’re from right across the state”
“With more people online, there’s also been more opportunities for unwanted contact.
“All young people must be protected from online offending, regardless of their age.
“Open and honest conversations between children and care-givers is one of the most valuable tools for online safety.
“Don’t wait until something happens to have these discussions, we strongly urge parents and carers to be proactive when speaking to young people about online safety and risks.”