This paper reports on the experience of the Queensland Police (Australia) in the investigation of predatory behavior by men seeking sex with children through online chat rooms.
Queensland has a specific law that makes it an offense for an adult to use electronic communication as a means to pursue the procuring of persons under 16 years old to engage in a sexual act. "Procuring" includes knowingly enticing or recruiting for the purposes of sexual exploitation. These provisions have extra-territorial effect in relation to the location of the adult or the child. This paper reports on 25 investigations into online "grooming" of children for sexual exploitation completed by the Queensland Police from June 2003 through September 2004 under the code name Task Force Argos. The intent of this research was to better understand how online "grooming" offenses are committed and how they can be policed. The researchers interviewed Task Force Argos officers and examined the task force records. This paper reports on referral cases and charges laid; suspect age, social circumstances, and location, the gender of suspects, the time taken in investigations, the nature of online interactions, online and offline sex, and court results. The investigative technique involved a small team of police posing as girls between 13 and 16 years old. The team was able to identify suspects and proceed with arrests over a period of 14 months. The suspects were committed and aggressive in their online pursuit of sexual interactions with girls presumed to be under the age of 16 years. They were also persistent in trying to arrange offline sexual contact. Suggestions are offered for preventing predators from having opportunities to subject children to such "grooming" tactics online. 1 table and 5 references
Australian Institute of Criminology
GPO Box 2944, Canberra ACT, 2601 Australia, Australia
Trends & Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice, No. 301, July 2005; downloaded October 14, 2005.