VULNERABLE: The union representing the NSW police says there is a lack of resources to keep children safe online.
VULNERABLE: The union representing the NSW police says there is a lack of resources to keep children safe online. Lee Constable

Lack of police resources leaving children vulnerable online

THE union representing NSW Police says a lack of resources are leaving Coffs Harbour kids vulnerable online.

The Police Association of NSW says predators are grooming children and sharing exploitative material virtually unmonitored via the internet due to a lack of resources in the state's Child Exploitation Internet Unit.

The union has revealed that just twelve officers are employed in the increasingly vital unit. Victoria has almost double the number of dedicated officers, and Queensland almost triple.

A lack of technology enabled crime officers in districts and local commands also means that local police in the Coffs Harbour area don't have access to the full breadth of information they need to monitor paedophiles in their area.

Coffs Harbour Branch Official Adam Gill said the force needs an urgent increase in the number of police dedicated to monitoring and capturing online predators.

"Our Child Exploitation Internet Unit is one of the best in the world, but a severe lack of resources means they're unable to adequately monitor the predators lurking online, harming our innocent children,” Mr Gill said.

"We know additional people on the ground would result in additional arrests - there's no doubt about that. By not resourcing the unit properly, the government is exposing our children and communities to an unacceptable degree of risk.

"Every parent out there is rightly terrified about the possibility of predators lurking online. The community deserves to know that we've got the resources we need to keep our children as safe as possible online, but unfortunately at the moment that's not the case.”

He said the Child Exploitation Internet Unit urgently requires an additional 16-21 dedicated officers, which would allow for:

. An investigative team looking into the dark web: currently these investigations are only done on a reactive basis.

. An investigative team focused on those sharing child sexual exploitation material: again, this is only done on a reactive basis.

. A boost in the team conducting covert investigations into persons using the internet to procure and groom children for sexual activity.

. A Victim Identification Team dedicated to the identification of victims of sexual exploitation and rescuing such victims. This is currently done only on a part-time basis.

. A technical team specifically tasked with the maintenance of all covert equipment, software and licences. Additionally, forensic support and triage at all CEIU warrants, initial triage and forensic examination of all seized electronic devices.

The call for additional police dedicated to the Child Exploitation Internet Unit forms part of the Police Association of NSW's call for an additional 2500 police in the state.