Sexually explicit material of Kiwi youngsters going online weekly, police warn
NZ Herald 8 August 2017
Family First Comment: Disturbing. And all the more reason for an expert inquiry into harms of porn
Police are receiving two to three reports every week about Kiwi children and teenagers posting sexually explicit images or footage of themselves online – including children as young as 6.
That rate is increasing and opposition parties are now calling for better resourcing of a specialist police team to tackle online child exploitation.
Detective Senior Sergeant John Michael, the head of the Online Child Exploitation Across New Zealand (Oceanz) unit, told the Herald the reports almost always relate to material that is self-generated – images and videos put up by young people themselves.
“There is usually, on the face of it, no evidence of another party being involved. Behaviours range from naked dancing to essentially really full-on sexualised behaviour – masturbation, that sort of stuff.”
Much of the material is put online by teenagers. However, Michael said children were also sharing explicit footage of themselves.
“We are talking 6, 7 [year-olds] – it is really not uncommon for us to get preteens.”
The material is most often posted to sites including YouTube, Facebook, Snapchat, Twitter and increasingly on YouNow – a live-streaming site. Those companies are required by United States law to report suspect material to the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children, which generates a “cyber tip report” that is sent to Oceanz.
In cases involving a child aged 16 or under police officers will be sent to door-knock the family home, to check on the child’s welfare and inform the parents or caregivers about what has happened.
Michael said officers followed a well-defined process, given the sensitivity of such discussions and the embarrassment it can cause a young person, sometimes increasing the risk of self-harm. Often by the time a “cyber tip” report is sent to New Zealand the offending material has been removed by a host site.
Oceanz was established in October 2009 and has a team of six, including Michael. The rate of “cyber tip” reports it receives regarding Kiwi kids was flagged in a recently revised and published police four-year plan.
It includes a graph comparing how much police child protection resources are dedicated to online exploitation here and across the Tasman. New Zealand dedicates 0.13 police per 100,000 head of population – less than all Australian states and compared to 0.51 in Queensland and 1.22 in the Northern Territories.
In February the Government announced a $503 million package to boost police officer numbers by 880 over four years. Documents related to that policy outlined the pressure on police and why a boost in numbers was needed, including in areas such as cyber crime and online offending, a “rapidly growing area of unmet demand”.
Labour’s police spokesman Stuart Nash said resourcing for police work to keep children safe from online exploitation should be “world leading”.
“The Government and the police have become very reactive, because of a lack of funding. The pressure goes on about burglaries so the police allocate money towards burglaries. It is all very short-term reactionary.”
New Zealand First police spokesman Ron Mark said the resources dedicated to policing online child exploitation reflected an under-funding of police that had occurred for years under National.
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