Social media's role in tackling crime
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Social media's role in tackling crime

Netizens can tip off police to wrong-doing, but also themselves fall prey to predators online

Central Investigation Bureau commissioner Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop Bhuridej says social media can help police in their investigations, but it can also pander to criminals. (Photo: Wassayos Ngamkham)
Central Investigation Bureau commissioner Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop Bhuridej says social media can help police in their investigations, but it can also pander to criminals. (Photo: Wassayos Ngamkham)

Social media can play a role in stopping crime, but it can also contribute to the exploitation of children and youths, according to police.

Last Monday, a woman suspected of offering her daughter to clients for sex on the internet was arrested following the help of social media users.

Netizens can help police investigations by alerting officers of crimes committed online, including prostitution, said Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) Commissioner Jirabhop Bhuridej.

Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop said he's has been investigating high-profile cases, including that of the woman who allegedly exploited her own daughter and sold the video clips online.

The woman, identified as Chantra, 26, was arrested after Anti-Trafficking in Persons Division (ATPD) police raided her home in tambon Dong Ta Ngao in Saraburi's Don Phut district last Monday.

Shortly afterwards, police arrested two men -- identified as Chacleef Chuenchob, 58, and Thossapol Kaensawat, 33 -- for allegedly procuring sex from Chantra's nine-year-old daughter.

"We have netizens to thank for tipping us off, which led to the speedy arrests of the three suspects," Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop said.

"The CIB picked up leads people sent to its official Facebook page," he said. "We were able to move in quickly and apprehend the suspects in the highly-publicised case."

"I cannot stress enough the importance of getting people on board in the police probe," he said. "In the Chantra case, videos and pictures that identified the suspect were supplied by netizens."

He said the gathering of solid evidence led police to act and request arrest warrants for the suspects in under 24 hours.

The case has hit media headlines as the three suspects have been denied bail.

Ms Chantra has been charged with procurement of a child under the age 15, being complicit in sexual assault against an underage person, possessing pornographic materials and colluding to arranging for prostitution.

Meanwhile, Mr Chacleef and Mr Thossapol have been charged with buying sex, committing sexual assault of an underage person and possessing pornographic materials.

Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop said that after Ms Chantra was nabbed in Saraburi, police widened their search for the two men, who were taken in the next day.

Ms Chantra reportedly told police she worked as a prostitute.

She opened several social media pages to attract customers, several of whom came across pictures of her nine-year-old daughter.

Police said some of them asked Ms Chantra to shoot a video of her daughter nude and have it sent to them.

The mother also took her daughter for sex with clients at hotels in Bangkok and Nakhon Pathom at least five times, police said. Mr Chacleef and Mr Thossapol were allegedly among the regulars.

Police said Ms Chantra made videos of her daughter for up to 500 baht each sale, while the daughter received 5,000 baht for having sex with customers.

Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop said Ms Chantra claimed she stopped recording videos of her daughter months ago, but added that police found she had been making the clips since last year.

Despite being unemployed, the mother had hundreds of thousands of baht in her bank accounts, he said.

When she was arrested on Monday, she showed no remorse, he said.

All three suspects denied the charges against them.

The court denied Ms Chantra bail after citing the gravity of her alleged chargers and deciding that she was a flight risk.

Ms Chantra is being held at the Central Women Correctional Institution and the men at the Bangkok Remand Prison.

Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop said while the internet can help solve crimes, it is also a double-edged sword.

He said technology has enabled abusers to get in contact with young people online, including by using the chat functions of online game and social media applications.

The CIB has aimed to ramp up its law enforcement. From October to last month, the bureau charged 122 people in 72 cases of sexual harassment or abuse.

"We want our country to be a safer place for children and youths," Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop said.

"Police have worked with law enforcement agencies overseas to keep out individuals who have been prosecuted for their sexual predatory behaviour."

In the meantime, new police detectives are learning about the evolution of sex crimes in the digital era, he said.

"Prevention is better than a cure," he said. "A crime of this nature can leave the victims permanently scarred emotionally."

The police are also seeking cooperation from the public, the private sector and non-profit organisations to establish a proactive system to heighten the protection of children.

One example is an Amber Alert system disseminating information through the media to assist searches of missing persons, locations and the safe recovery of an abducted child or missing child warnings.

A study of the characteristics of sex offenders confirmed that behaviours vary according to abusers' age, family background, personality, beliefs and levels of relational skill, according to Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop.

Pedophilia exhibited by the offenders is a condition that must be treated, he said, adding many parents have sold their children into prostitution for money as the families suffered poverty or were in debt.

Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop insisted that increasing the punishment against pedophiles was no way out of the problem.

The law must be strictly enforced while the offenders must also be medically and psychologically treated, he said.

Their criminal record should be kept by the authorities in case there is a need to track them after they have been discharged after serving time, he said.

"It helps rein in sex crimes against children," he said.

The compulsory registration of pedophiles in some countries has proved to lower repeat offences with people in the neighbourhoods taking part in keeping watch of the individuals, he said.

Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop then warned of harsh punishments.

People buying sex from someone 15 years or under, even with the consent of the person, are liable for a jail term of between five to 20 years, a fine of between 100,000 and 400,000 baht, or both, he said.

Possessing child pornographic material is punishable by up to five years in jail, a maximum fine of 100,000 baht or both.

Sharing or distributing a child pornographic material or being complicit to the trade of such material carries a jail sentence of between three to 10 years, a fine of between 60,000 to 200,000 baht or both.

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