The Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) is using messaging service WhatsApp to tackle the sexual exploitation of children via social media.
Head of the Corporate Communications Unit of the JCF, Superintendent Stephanie Lindsay said a WhatsApp group was created to encourage citizens to send all sexual videos and images of children directly to the police, in order to prevent undesirable sharing.
“Once the content is sent to the police, we will use our electronic devices to track the source and the persons who share the information and make our arrests. We have the technology that will allow us to identify the origin of the message,” she explained.
Superintendent Lindsay urged citizens to add the JCF WhatsApp number – 564-6840 – to their contact list to assist the process.
“Help us protect our children and their future; make the report to the police,” she urged.
She said reports could also be made to the Child Development Agency (CDA), Office of the Children’s Registry and the Centre for the Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse (CISOCA).
Superintendent Lindsay explained that the move to introduce the WhatsApp number was to prevent the public from committing breaches of the Child Pornography (Prevention) Act of 2009, which prohibits the production, distribution, importation, exportation or possession of child pornography and the use of children for pornography.
“You will be charged and imprisoned if you breach the Child Care and Protection Act 2003, which seeks to protect the nation’s children from abuse and neglect, and the sentencing can give you up to 20 years behind bars,” she said.
The senior police officer pointed out that each time the content is shared there is a breach, and each share is a separate offense and a separate charge.
“So, if you send it to 20 persons, you will be charged for at least 20 offenses/breaches or even more. Therefore, if you receive any video depicting children in a sexual light, do not send it to everyone in your contact list out of shock or concern, send it to the JCF WhatsApp number,” the Superintendent said.
She added that persons would also be in breach if they have material of youngsters being sexually exploited and fail to report it to the relevant authorities; if they store the information on any device, or if they know of adults forcing children to perform sexual acts for leisure or financial gain.
“We have seen an increased number of images painting children in a carnal way being circulated on social media, and the police are taking a zero-tolerance approach to stop this breach,” Lindsay said.
Child pornography refers to visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor (a person less than 16 years old), “so whether it’s a photograph or a video, once it depicts the genital parts of the child, it can also be considered as child sexual abuse,” she explained.