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‘Cops reluctant to record cybercrime complaints’

2 years ago

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  • NCPA blames lack of tech-savviness among grassroots cops

  • 204 cyber crimes complaints in 2020; figure higher for 2021

  • 80% involve sexual exploitation, revenge porn, victim shaming, exposing identity of minors, cyber stalking

  • 66% of cyber crimes via Facebook, majority from Kotte, Homagama

By Pamodi Waravita Following the sexual exploitation of a 15-year-old girl online via websites, officials from the National Child Protection Authority (NCPA) have claimed that grassroots-level Police officers have frequently proven reluctant to record complaints related to cybercrimes. The officials told The Morning yesterday (7) that this reluctance was likely due to the generational age gap, which makes modern and evolving technologies unfamiliar to these police officers, as well as their lack of knowledge on how to proceed in such instances. The NCPA raised concerns about the monitoring and investigating of cybercrimes relating to children, citing a lack of specialised knowledge on the part of the officers assigned to handling related tasks and the unavailability of sophisticated technological infrastructure. “Monitoring and investigating cybercrimes is a difficult task. There needs to be specialised knowledge concerning the relevant media, facilities, and tools. We lack modern software and knowledge to combat and monitor crimes in the online space,” an official attached to the NCPA told The Morning. Attempts to contact Police Media Spokesman Senior Deputy Inspector General of Police (SDIG) Ajith Rohana to obtain his comments proved futile. However, the NCPA has been increasing the number of awareness and training programmes conducted for these officers. It is learnt that out of the 8,165 complaints received by the NCPA in 2020, 2.5% of them, or approximately 204, were related to cybercrimes. Cybercrimes can be recognised either through complaints received by the NCPA, or through the Authority’s own surveillance mechanisms. The Morning learnt that in 2021 so far, the number of such complaints has increased. The NCPA also recorded that 80% of those cybercrimes were connected to sexual exploitation of some sort, including revenge porn, the shaming of victims using information of a sexual nature, revealing the identities of children who have been sexually exploited, and cyber stalking. 66% of the cybercrimes were conducted via Facebook, while platforms such as Instagram, Pornhub, WhatsApp, and Grindr also show instances of the sexual exploitation of children. From the complaints received, 64% have been about girl children. Children between the ages of 16 and 18 years record 63% of total complaints; those between the ages of 11 and 15 years record 17% of total complaints; those between the ages of six and 10 years record 8% of total complaints; and those between the ages of one and five years record 4% of the total complaints. The most number of cybercrimes related to children are reported from the Sri Jayewardenepura, Kotte, and Homagama areas in the Colombo District. Officials said that the reasons for more complaints from the Western Province could be greater access to internet services and more awareness on how to approach authorities when faced with such situations. It is learnt that the NCPA is expanding its capacities in the monitoring aspects of cybercrimes, with the recruitment of new officers, for which the approval of the Women and Child Development, Pre-Schools and Primary Education, School Infrastructure, and Education Services State Ministry has already been received. Meanwhile, the Women Parliamentarians’ Caucus Chairperson and Primary Health Care, Epidemics, and Covid-19 Disease Control State Minister Dr. Sudarshini Fernandopulle has told the media that the likelihood of children accessing the internet during the Covid-19 pandemic is higher, and therefore, it is the responsibility of the entire society to ensure that they are not sexually or emotionally exploited. A spate of arrests followed the initial arrest of a man by the Mount Lavinia Police on 7 June over suspicion of having sold a 15-year-old girl via a website – The man was also charged with sexually assaulting the girl over the internet and was remanded after being produced before the Moratuwa Magistrate’s Court. The Police said that the girl in question had been sold to various people for Rs. 10,000, Rs. 15,000, and Rs. 30,000 each, for about three months. A total of 34 suspects have been arrested over the sale of the 15-year-old girl including, among others, the former Maldivian State Minister for Finance and Treasury Mohamed Ashmalee, a specialist cardiologist attached to the Navy, the victim’s mother, another woman, the person who prepared the advertisement, a three-wheeler driver, a car driver, a hotel manager, the Mihintale Pradeshiya Sabha Deputy Chairman, a leading gem businessman, a monk, a ship captain, and crew members of the same ship.

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