Victoria Police and the Australian Federal Police have executed warrants at 20 properties across Victoria as part of a state-wide operation targeting those accessing online child abuse materials.
Twenty people were arrested as a result of those warrants.
Operation P2P was designed to identify and apprehend people involved in accessing, downloading and distributing child abuse material via Peer to Peer (P2P) networks on the world wide web.
Police also conducted checks to see if any children were at risk or identified as victims of sexual abuse due to their connection with those arrested or the properties raided during the operation.
On 29 March police executed warrants at a property in Capel Sound and arrested a 62-year-old man. He was subsequently released pending further enquiries.
Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton said Operation P2P is about targeting and highlighting what is a growing issue for law enforcement across the world.
“Child exploitation images and online child sexual offences are some of the fastest growing crimes across the world,” DC Patton said.
“This is fuelled by rapidly advancing technology and new social media platforms where the ability for offenders to create, share and consume this material grows every day.
“Offenders are actively taking steps to ensure they are not caught and police need to be able to keep up.
“Whilst we know that police are only detecting a small number of those committing these offences, it’s important we continue to work with other state and federal law enforcement agencies, both in Australia and across the world, to ensure we are continuing to improve our response to this type of crime.
“Investigating online child abuse offences will always be challenging but it’s important that police continue to identify and charge these offenders, and part of that is by running targeted operations such as this one.”
DC Patton also said it was important to target people who view and share these materials online given the potential for offences to escalate.
“We know there are links between this type of online activity and contact offending, so it’s important that we target anyone prepared to source this type of material in any way,” he said.
“There is clear evidence that child exploitation material is sometimes used for grooming and seducing victims.
“Part of this operation was focused on establishing whether any of those arrested had moved from online offences to contact offending, and if there were any children currently at risk or who could be identified as victims of a sexual assault.
“These are not simply online choices made for sexual gratification – they are abhorrent crimes against children, the most vulnerable people in our community.”
Offences for the possession, distribution and access of child abuse carry penalties of up to 10 years imprisonment in Victoria.
Anyone in the community with information about child exploitation material or related activity is urged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or submit a confidential crime report to www.crimestoppersvic.com.au