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Anti-crime unit targets online porn addicts

Downloading images of child abuse is a crime in Switzerland

(Keystone)

A Swiss crime prevention unit is attempting to help men addicted to internet pornography before they move on to accessing images of child abuse.

The head of Swiss Crime Prevention (SCP), Martin Boess, told swissinfo that his organisation wanted to break the vicious circle that leads to child pornography consumption.

Boess was speaking after Swiss police announced their participation this week in a combined European police operation to dismantle a global child pornography network - Operation Koala.

swissinfo: How can you help people addicted to internet pornography?

Martin Boess: We have about two people per month who call us and say "I have a problem with the internet; I spend way too many hours on the internet; I send my family away at the weekend so that I can watch internet pornography – what can I do?"

We currently have several psychiatrists that we work with who can counsel them and help them overcome this dependency.

From next September we will be offering a course for psychiatrists, and all the psychiatrists that we have checked and interviewed and provided with information will be listed on our website for anyone to consult.

But if someone calls me and says he is actively consuming child pornography, the only thing I can tell him is that he has to go to the police and turn himself in because he has committed a crime.

That's where we really draw a line; we will not give any advice on how to cope with the problem of addiction to child pornography because using it is illegal in Switzerland.

swissinfo: How useful is your online test for pornography addiction?

M.B.: The online test has been on our website since 2005; it's anonymous and we do not record any statistics from the answers. We want to give people an idea about their own situation. We are not an official police station and we are not trying to find paedophiles.

We try to give information to people so that they can make up their own minds about the problem and whether they should react or not.

We would like to make people think because prevention starts with being able to find out where one stands and how things are developing, whether one needs help or not.

swissinfo: In the light of the Operation Koala searches, would you say that there is significant demand for child pornography in Switzerland?

M.B.: Absolutely. We know that organised crime is behind selling internet child pornography so there is apparently a huge market. We also know that a lot more people would want to have sex with minors if there wasn't a law against it. There must be quite a big market, not only in Switzerland but also everywhere in the western world.

We have been in contact with the police about Operation Koala and we have all the information relating to this case. Now we are trying to think about new messages that we should give to the public.

swissinfo: Has the internet increased the problem of child porn?

M.B.: The internet has certainly meant that the amount of child pornography available has increased exponentially, but I don't know whether the desire to see it has really grown that much.

The internet is definitely a factor that has dynamised the spread of child pornography. It's a lot easier to get hold of now than it was before.

swissinfo-interview: Clare O'Dea

Operation Koala

Following the discovery of a Belgian child abuse video in Australia, a combined European police operation targeted a global child pornography network that produced "tailor-made" videos of child abuse for some 2,500 men in 19 countries.

Swiss police participated in "Operation Koala", making 19 house searches in ten cantons and seizing a large quantity of material and computer equipment, federal police announced on Monday.

The police have not ruled out arrests in Switzerland ensuing from the examination of the seized material.

European police forces have arrested 92 people so far, including 21 in France, 14 in Britain and 11 in Spain.

There are an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 child victims of sexual abuse whose images are available on the internet.

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Swiss Crime Prevention

Swiss Crime Prevention (SCP) coordinates the prevention work of the various Swiss cantonal police forces.

SCP has been running a campaign against paedophile crime on the internet since 2005.

The key messages of SCP's campaign against child pornography are:
That the police is also present online. People who view images of child abuse leave traces, which can be investigated by the police.

Behind every image of child pornography is a victim. Every photo documents the abuse of a child and therefore viewing child pornography is not a victimless crime.

The internet is used as a tool to source and groom prospective victims of child abuse which means that child users of the internet must be protected.

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