Keisha Hill, Sunday Gleaner Writer
Local investigators have moved to clamp down on the growth on Internet sex crimes involving minors and financial scams, but say they need additional resources to be more effective.
According to divisional detective inspector, Webster Francis, with direct responsibility for day-to-day supervision of investigations and operations of the Divisional Case Registry at the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Carnal Abuse, they are now monitoring sexual predators on-line but with all fairly new acts it takes some time for everything to be in place.
"Once we are aware of the reports, we investigate the matter and if we are able to seize the equipment, whether the computer, the cellphone or video-cam we take that to the specialist section to give us the data surrounding the images which are captured," Francis said.
Francis, who was speaking at a recent Gleaner Editor's Forum, added that once the data is collected, it becomes a part of the evidence and the information by itself would be presented against the offender when taken to court.
"Once we have allegations of technological devices being utilised in the commission of sexual offences such as pornography and the transmission of images dealing with sexual offences, we act on the information," Francis said.
The Organised Crime Investiga-tive Division Unit of the Jamaica Constabulary Force also deals specifically with some of the technological investigations. However Francis said the police force needs more resources for the specialist skills the investigations require.
"We need more resources in terms of investigators. The Government needs to put more into the police force and into this unit," Francis said.
The Government had pushed the Cyber Crime Bill through Parliament in 2009 amid reports of paedophiles and other persons using technology, particularly Internet chat rooms and instant messengers, to lure others into sex traps. The legislation moved Jamaica closer to the point where hackers and persons who send pop-ups and rip off persons by accessing their personal data could be prosecuted.
The legislation addresses the protection of intellectual property on the worldwide web, as well as hacking, and seeks to prevent the misuse of data by making it illegal for persons to invade the privacy of individuals who supply information, such as their credit card numbers to others. It also addresses the issue of pornography, so that persons will not have all kinds of unsolicited material forced upon them over the Internet.
The bill, which was passed with eight amendments, will see persons convicted of breaches facing a maximum sentence of 10 years' imprisonment and a minimum of two years; or slapped with fines ranging between $2 million and $5 million.
A number of attorneys had also agitated for the passage of the law, after expressing concerns over a number of cases in the Resident Magistrate's Courts in which nude photographs of women engaged in sexual acts with their partners have been publicised when the relationship ends.
For that reason, the act allows law-enforcement officials to "properly investigate and prosecute cyber crimes". It also provides criminal sanctions for the unauthorised access to and use of computer systems and data, and for crimes facilitated by the misuse of computer systems and data.
Financial institutions, particularly members of the Jamaica Bankers' Association, were also part of an all-out effort, recently, in smashing a debit-card scam that was threatening the security confidence of the electronic banking system in Jamaica.
The police say the devices were used to capture customer information in order to make a duplicate card, which is then used to withdraw monies from accounts without the owners' knowledge and permission. The men were subsequently charged under sections 3, 6 and 8 of the Cyber Crime Act.
WHILE UNABLE to give a timeline when the proposed sex offenders' registry will be established, police corporal Glenville Bean said that this type of log is critical as a deterrent to these forms of crime, and most importantly, will also zero in on repeat offenders.
"Their movement from parish to parish will be monitored and there will be certain restrictions as to what they can do in terms of providing services to the public," Bean said in an Editors' forum held at the The Gleaner's North Street Offices, in Kingston.
The corporal, who is attached to the Centre for the Investigations of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse, was speaking at a recent Gleaner Editors' Forum. He said that the final regulations are still being worked out.
Under the the Sexual Offences Act, the registry will allow the police to create a database of persons who are convicted of a sexual offence, track their movements from parish to parish, and monitor their contact with minors.
However, Children's Advocate Mary Clarke in an earlier interview with The Gleaner expressed concern that the 50 per cent clear-up rate for police investigations in sexual offences and the low conviction rate in the courts will mean that many persons implicated in sex crimes, but not convicted, will be excluded from the registry.
"If you wait for the conviction to put them on the register, only one out of six will get on that register. When you look at the statistics, the clear-up rate (for the police) is 50 per cent, so from the beginning, many of them are not caught," Clarke said.