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February 2009
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Team to patrol cyberspace

A new team is being created to tackle the exploitation of children across the internet and other electronic means.

Police are developing the Online Child Exploitation Across New Zealand (OCEANZ) team in response to increasing pressure for service around this crime type and our obligations in child protection.

Detective Senior Sergeant Neil Holden – says the growth in the use of social networking sites has been dramatic.

Photo: Anna Woolnough

Detective Senior Sergeant Neil Holden, National Coordinator, Adult Sexual Assault and Child Abuse, says the growth in the use of the internet, in particular the growth of social networking sites, has been dramatic.

“In 2006 MySpace was attracting 230,000 new profiles daily. The increase in these, and other websites, has created more opportunity for those people who seek to groom children for sexual gratification and also has provided forums to share abusive images of children. For an image to be created, a child must be abused.”

OCEANZ, to be based at Police National Headquarters, intends to become New Zealand’s lead agency in a taskforce approach to online child protection. It will coordinate international operations as well as proactively patrol the net for those committing grooming offences.

“OCEANZ will work very closely with national and international agencies, the Department of Internal Affairs and Customs as well as the National Cyber Crime Centre, the Electronic Crime Lab and District Child Abuse Teams,” says Neil.

The intention is that OCEANZ will do most of the leg-work and provide District Child Abuse Teams with near-complete evidential packages, including everything they need to continue and terminate operations. OCEANZ will then collate the results of the operation, sharing them with the agency which provided the initial information.

“Our ultimate aim is to detect these offenders and intervene to protect victims before they come to harm,” says Neil.

This may sound optimistic, but an offender recently arrested for possession of objectionable images admitted to police that he was strongly fantasising about sexually assaulting his nine-year-old niece whom he had just started babysitting.

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