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Stranger Danger On The Web

On the net yesterday, a pervert tries to groom a 'young girl'...
Hi what's up/ What are you into? Where do you go to school?/ Have you ever had sex?/ What are you doing/ How old are you?/ Do you want to see my web-cam?

WITHIN minutes of logging into an internet chatroom posing as a 13 y ear-old girl, police analyst Joanne Corbett is set upon by predators.
With cyber nicknames such as "Pipsqueak" and "Talon", anonymous paedophiles -who could be sitting at a computer around the corner or across the globe - latch onto their latest victim.
"How old are you? What do you look like?" they ask with seemingly innocent interest.
But the small talk soon turns nasty.
"Have you ever had sex? Do you want me to turn on my webcam?," they ask.
Welcome to the world of the internet predator, a fiend whose technological brazenness should send a shiver down the spine of every parent.
Police have issued new warnings to parents following a recent spate of incidents in which teenage girls have gone missuig, only to be found in the company of men they met on the internet.
Earlier this week, a 13-year-old schoolgirl from Orange returned to her parents' home after spending three days in Sydney with a 20-year-old man she had met in a computer chat room.
It follows the case of a 13-year-old girl who ran away from her Emu Plains home in May to spend four days in a Canberra with a 27-year- old man.
And, Queensland man Geoffrey Brian Williams, 45, remains in custody in Newcastle on charges of having sexual intercourse with a schoolgirl. Police alleged he communicated with her over the internet.
NSW Police recently expanded The Child Exploitation Internet Unit in an effort to snare computer predators.
From his office in a tower of Paramatta's police headquarters, Detective Sergeant Richard Palamara and a dedicated team of investigators and analysts are constantly trawling chatrooms - hunting the hunters.
Posing as children and teenagers, the team easily seeks out predators within minutes of logging on.
"We've gone into chatrooms just to test the waters out and it's so easy to organise to meet up with young girls," Sgt Palamara said.
They have so many warnings about meeting people yet they seem to disregard them. And it's not just girls, it happens with boys as well. It is just so easy to get information out of them as to what schools, they go to, what sports they play."
Ms Corbett, who only recently joined the team as an analyst, admits to being shocked by the cyber discussions she is often involved in.
"It's definitely shocking but I don't take it personally," she said. "They do say some pretty nasty stuff but you've got to play along."
Scanning popular chat sites, including those associated with teen magazines and music, Ms Corbett logs in and waits - but not for very long.
When you log on, you usually don't have to write anything. I just wait for them to come to me," she said. "The person I play is innocent, so they ask me relatively tame questions at first, like What are you doing?", 'How old are you?" -What do you look like?'.
"But it goes pretty quickly into the nasty stuff."
Fellow analyst Tanya Fernandes also acts as a 13-year-old girl. '"It takes less than two minutes for them to target you," she said. "Within five they are usually broaching the topic of sex."
At the moment, the team is using its scanning techniques to build up intelligence on suspected paedophiles.
But when new Commonwealth "grooming" laws are introduced - hopefully by the end of the year - the team will be able to be more pro- active in luring predators in to a trap.
The grooming legislation - Similar to that which already exists in Queensland ~ will make it illegal for a person to use a computer or telecommunications device to groom minors for sexual encounters.

Daily Telegraph (28-8-2004)
Brad Clifton/ Angela Kamper

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