A special team of investigators, who go deep into a world none of us want to be a part of, are on a mission to protect our children and catch online predators.
Right now, the New South Wales Child Exploitation Internet Unit is averaging two to three arrests every week.
It’s a frightening wake-up call for all parents.
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“That expression, it takes a village to raise a child. Well, that’s never been more apparent than right now in this online space,” Detective Chief Inspector Chris Goddard told A Current Affair.
“We need everybody to play a part and that starts with parents, goes through to the schools and the education system.”
A Current Affair’s Sylvia Jeffreys followed the team on a trawling mission to find and arrest those who are targeting kids on the internet.
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Less than a minute after logging on, a detective who assumed the identity of a teenager was approached by multiple people, including a 39-year-old man.
Within 30 minutes, one of the conversations escalated and that person started sending offensive images.
An hour later, another person lined up to meet the detective, believing she was a teenager.
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“We make all attempts to identify the offenders because that’s our main priority, because chances are if they’re talking to us, they’re talking to real children,” team leader, Detective Sergeant Natali Stojceski said.
“The end goal is always to target, identify and arrest offenders whoever they are and wherever they may be located.”
In the space of 30 minutes, the detective found two people worth pursuing.
One even handed over their mobile phone number.
Two weeks later, on the day of a planned meeting, the person appeared to get cold feet, or they may have become suspicious.
But police believed they knew who it was and they had enough evidence to arrest them.
They wouldn’t wait any longer and decided to act.
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“We’re looking for a mobile phone that we suspect he’s using to communicate with us. We’re looking for any digital devices that are capable of storing any media,” Stojceski told the team.
Police were thrown another curve ball.
Their target was a 37-year-old man in the Defence Force.
He was on a secure military base so we had to wait until he was taken into custody and delivered to a police station.
“He was shocked even when he first saw us and I think his world just crashed in that moment,” Stojecski said.
“You could see the reaction in terms of twitching in the body and nervousness.”
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The man faced court, he didn’t apply for bail and he is yet to enter a plea.
We know he has a family who lives interstate.
Police are catching offenders on an almost daily basis.
So what can we do to protect our children online?
- Have open conversations with your kids about their online activity
- Watch your child’s online activity, regularly check privacy settings and profiles
- Know who they are contacting online
- Turn off chat functions where necessary
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