Foreword | This paper reports the experience of Queensland police in the investigation of predatory behaviour by men seeking sex with children through online chat rooms.
It reports on the 25 investigations into online grooming completed by the Queensland Police in the period June 2003 and September 2004 under the code name Task Force Argos, and includes a discussion of three successful prosecutions.
The investigations involved police officers posing as girls aged between 13 and 16 accessing the internet in order to uncover adults who were seeking to procure children online for sexual activity.
In 76 per cent of cases the suspect was arrested for an offence within one month of the first online contact.
In 68 per cent of cases the adult sought offline contact with the child.
In 48 per cent of cases the adult suspect was arrested at the intended rendezvous with the child.
Toni Makkai Director Children are growing up with computers.
They use computers at home, at friends' places, at the library and at school to work, play and communicate.
Some have net connectivity on portable devices such as mobile phones.
Computers connected to the internet provide a number of ways to communicate in real time with other people who can be anywhere, including across the room, hallway, road, city, state, country or world.
Various facilities are available to search out others with similar backgrounds or interests.
If a child enters an online chat room they may encounter an adult person, who may or may not be pretending to be a child, but who is on the lookout for a child to whom they can 'talk dirty', send obscene images, obtain sexually explicit pictures, engage in cybersex or meet for sex offline.
The adult might strike up a conversation which very soon progresses to a sexually explicit topic.
In some jurisdictions there may be a limited range of possible offences to cover such actions.