Technological advancements and increasingly easy access to the Internet have created new possibilities for the criminal exploitation of children.
To address this issue in the Cayman Islands, Hedge Funds Care has provided a grant to the Royal Cayman Islands Police Service to support a training program relating to child exploitation and cybercrime.
Hedge Funds Care, an organization whose sole mission is to support programs that prevent child abuse, has worked with the RCIPS for many years, providing grants for investigators and equipment.
This year, the police service received a grant of $8,750 to bring in a U.K.-based expert trainer in child exploitation who will train police and other agencies to deal with issues such as online child pornography and Internet or smartphone “grooming” practices, wherein children are contacted by potential abusers online.
RCIPS Detective Superintendent Mike Cranswick said the extent to which these problems exist in Cayman is difficult to gauge, as these activities are largely hidden on the Internet, but it “would be foolish and dangerous to think that this doesn’t exist here.”
“We’ve seen some cases here in Cayman quite recently where people have been convicted of possession of child pornography,” Mr. Cranswick said. “How big the problem is, we don’t know, but it would be dangerous to ignore it.”
According to a recent United Nations study on the effects of new information technologies on the abuse and exploitation of children, forms of Internet-facilitated child sexual abuse fall under a number of categories.
Children can be harmed by content they are exposed to online as passive recipients of pornographic or harmful sexual contact. They can also be solicited online, targeted by Internet users to be exploited in sexual abuse activities that are recorded and then distributed, or “groomed” by an Internet user who establishes a friendship with the child with the aim of future sexual contact.
Children who may not comprehend the repercussions of such behavior can also sometimes be active participants in their own exploitation, sharing self-generated content, such as sexually explicit photos or videos.
“Engaging in a chatroom with someone you don’t know can be dangerous,” Mr. Cranswick said. “People can post or send photographs, you have no idea of knowing whether the person who sent you that photograph is the person you’re actually talking to.”
Parents have a responsibility to monitor what their children are doing online, Mr. Cranswick said, but they may not always be able to protect children from online exploitation.
According to Mr. Cranswick, police will be trained in specialist techniques to be able to find and determine where exploitative online materials are coming from. The training will also deal with ways of preventing children from being exploited online.
“We’re starting to see more and more of this,” Mr. Cranswick said. “Is it more widespread than what we’re seeing? We don’t know … so we want to do some preventative work with education and we also want to be able to then investigate and have officers who are trained to get into what is quite technically challenging,”
A date has not yet been set for the training, but Mr. Cranswick said it will happen by the end of this year or in early 2016. “The training will be really welcome,” he said.