Police are waging war against online child sexual predators, and this week alone, they nabbed four suspects.
The latest is a 60-year-old man arrested in Umbilo, KwaZulu Natal, on Thursday. The suspect was found with thousands of images and videos of child pornography.
SAPS national spokesperson Brigadier Athlenda Mathe confirmed that the suspect forms part of the 27 online child sexual predators that have been identified in South Africa by a joint international operation led by the SAPS’ Serial and Electronic Investigations (SECI) unit and the USA Department of Homeland Security.
In the past week, three others were arrested in Gauteng.
“The SAPS is calling on parents to monitor their children’s devices, such as tablets and phones, on a daily basis to prevent more children from becoming victims of such criminal activities. The SAPS also encourages parents to install parental software and apps that are able to block harmful content on chats and apps,” Mathe said
The Gauteng trio were arrested in a simultaneous takedown operation in the past week relating to a number of suspects who were identified as South African users involved in the possession, distribution, manufacturing, accessing and downloading of child pornography.
In Springs, Gauteng police arrested a 63-year-old male British citizen who was found to be in the country illegally.
The suspect faces offences related to bestiality and police seized material of him allegedly having sexual intercourse with a dog.
The dog was saved.
Other offences are related to child pornography, such as possession, distribution, accessing, downloading, viewing, facilitating the distribution, making child pornography available, exposure of a child to adult and child pornography and grooming of a child.
Members of the SECI, at head office and in Gauteng, conducted the preliminary investigations on the users, and various provinces were identified in which the suspects reside.
Mathe said after several months of investigation and planning by the SECI, perpetrators were identified in Gauteng and a joint operation was planned.
She said the second suspect, who is a 43-year-old South African male, was arrested in Benoni, Ekurhuleni.
Mathe said the suspect also faces offences relating to child pornography, including possession, distribution, accessing, downloading, viewing, facilitating the distribution and making child pornography available.
She said the third suspect, a 43-year-old South African male, was arrested in Krugersdorp, west of Johannesburg.
He too faces charges relating to child pornography, possession, accessing, downloading, and viewing.
Mathe said as a result of these operations, three South African children who were used during the commission of the above offences were identified and a dog was saved.
“The operations will continue throughout the country to unravel a network of child sexual predators,” Mathe said.
She said the trio have already appeared before various courts including Springs, Benoni and Krugersdorp Magistrate’s Courts on Monday.
Their cases were postponed for further investigation and bail applications.
A report titled Disrupting harm in South Africa: Evidence on online child sexual exploitation and abuse, which was released by ECPAT International, Interpol and Unicef last year, states that between 7% and 9% of South African children between the ages of nine and 17 have experienced online sexual exploitation
Online predators are adults who, in a sexually motivated way, approach children and teenagers online to exploit their innocence and inexperience.
Predators assume fake online identities and go on chat rooms, gaming sites and social network platforms just like everybody else. They will try to target young and impressionable people, often by “connecting” over their related life situations and speaking about their shared struggles or appreciation for things.
According to the Western Cape Social Development Department, experts have identified at least six areas of global threats that can further expose children to sexual abuse and exploitation online: child sexual abuse material, computer/digitally generated child sexual abuse/exploitation material, online grooming for sexual purposes, sexting, sexual extortion and live online child sexual abuse or live streaming of child sexual abuse.
The Gender-Based Violence (GBV) Command Centre provides an avenue for reporting online violations of children, cyberbullying and child trafficking by children themselves and their parents. GBV Command Centre - 0800 428 428.
Childline also supports reporting of all forms of violations through their helpline and provides online counselling. Contact Childline toll free at 116.
SA Resource Line for cases of child trafficking: Human trafficking hotline - 0800 222 777.
Films and Publications Board for online violations: 0800 148 148.