Child sex predators are increasingly sharing more abuse material online, with police issuing a warning to prevent Victorian youths being exploited.
There’s been an increase in the sharing of child exploitation material via Peer 2 Peer (PSP) sites, according to the Victorian Joint Anti Child Exploitation Team, which is made up of state and federal police.
There was a 34 per cent increase in Victorian IP addresses seen sharing child abuse material on these networks, between August 2019 to May.
During the same period, there was a 99 per cent increase in child abuse material files shared on P2P networks in Victoria.
Several law enforcement agencies have evidence that online places such as the dark web are being inundated with new uploaded and shared material.
Police are concerned it could include material produced in Australia.
Detective Superintendent Jane Welsh said adult offenders were spending more time at home online, downloading and sharing the material.
“The reality is that the increase of online socialising and other activities we are currently experiencing due to the global pandemic provides a greater opportunity for online sexual offending and unwanted contact, particularly for children,” she said on Monday.
These same people may also have access to vulnerable children leading to contact offending or the creation of more material, she said.
“Because children are isolated from a range of adults with mandatory reporting obligations at the moment, it also lessens the opportunity for risky behaviour or offending to be identified by those adults and acted upon,” she said.
The team is also focused on catching adult offenders paying to view child abuse material online and the illegal importation of child sex dolls.
Since the start of March the team has had several cases.
Among them is a man who was charged with possession of child abuse material and then released on bail.
He was arrested again in April after new electronic evidence revealed contact offending and seven victims, aged between three to five, were identified. Those children were rescued and the accused was hit with another 12 charges.
There’s also anecdotally been a lot of grooming-type behaviour with adult males contacting young girls online to meet for sexual activity, Det Superintendent Welsh said.
“We also see really manipulative behaviour from predators where children or young people are targeted by online child sex offenders through different platforms and encouraged to self-produce child exploitation material,” she warned.
Carers are urged to speak with their children about online safety, know the risks and to monitor their activity online.