Police unit Snares Child- Sex Offenders
YOU could forgive
Grant Stevens for being sickened - and
angry - when doing his
job. Even repulsed.
He and his small team of crime-
fighters are locked in a crusade
against pedophiles, some of whom
are now grandfathers and have
committed sex crimes over many
Under the direction of 40-year-old
Detective Superintendent Stevens,
the SA Police Pedophile Task Force
was set up 16 months ago with the
specific task of tracking down child-
sex offenders and bringing them to
Since then, the team of 13 has
investigated more than 300 allegations of historical child sexual
abuse. As a result, police have arrested and reported 17 people involved in the
alleged sexual abuse
of 39 victims, aged from five to
Most recently, in August, nine
men aged between 45 and 83 were
arrested or reported tor various
sexual offences - among them a
former Scout leader, a former
Anglican Church minister and one-
time junior coach with Surf Life
Because they abuse their positions of trust, people such as them
are dubbed "groomers" by police.
"It's not often we, as police, get
the opportunity to contribute to
something as significant as what
the pedophile task force is achieving for victims of historical sexual
abuse," Supt Stevens said.
"And there is a great deal of
satisfaction for the investigators in
being able to help victims, and they
find this rewarding." Moves are currently under way to double the size
of the task farce - with the support
of the State Government through
a $4 million injection of funds.
"This will enable SAPOL to maintain its ongoing commitment to the
investigation of historical sexual offences," Supt Stevens said.
Four extra sworn police officers
and 10 civilians - working in the
areas of research and support - will
join the team of investigators and
victim management officers.
The extra personnel will be vital
in dealing with another 600 reports
of child-sex abuse in South Australia.
Members of the task force played
an integral role in Operation Auxin,
last month's nationwide crackdown
on Internet child pornography
which resulted in the arrests of 161
In SA, six people were reported for
possessing child pornography, and
another 38 are still being investigated as part of Operation Auxin.
Supt Stevens said the raids were
a clear warning to sex offenders.
"No matter how long ago they
committed an offence against a
child, we are likely to catch up with
them," he said.
"I cannot provide information regarding the number of investigations being conducted at this
time, but am able to say that investigations are under way and we
expect that there will be more arrests for historical child-sex offences."
Even though detectives are dealing with hundreds of allegations,
Supt Stevens said each case was
taken "very seriously".
The majority have filtered
through to the task force investigators from phone calls made to the
Crime Stoppers hotline.
Some victims have also sent letters to the task force's Wright St
office in the city.
"When a person has the courage
to come forward and is prepared to
leave their name, they are contacted personally by an investigator
who conducts a preliminary assessment of the information the person
is able to provide," Supt Stevens
Given the nature of the work,
some cases can take months before
any outcome is reached.
Sometimes the task is made even
harder by sketchy details provided
by the victims - understandable
considering that most were children or teenagers when they were
sexually abused. "And the passing
of time can impact on the success
of locating a person in these circumstances," Supt Stevens said.
"Despite that, SAPOL investigators have worked hard and will
continue to do so to bring about a
resolution for victims."
When Supt Steve us was appointed to head the team in May
last year, it was ostensibly charged
with the responsibility of investigating allegations within the Adelaide
Diocese of the Anglican Church.
Less than six months later, the
task force's responsibilities were
extended to include allegations of
historical child sexual abuse within
child care and welfare organisations.
It culminated in a phone-in day in
October, 2003, titled "It's never too
late to tell".
This was after statutory limitations of time for sex offences
before 1982 was lifted in June.
Police received more than 340
phone calls to the Crime Stoppers
Supt Stevens has acknowledged
victims' courage in coming forward
on that day and since.
"I am certain their actions will
play a key part in reducing opportunities for child sexual offenders to
commit offences in the future," he
said. "Because by coming forward
and initiating investigations, victims are contributing to an increased awareness in
relation to child sexual abuse.
"And this awareness extends to
those organisations that have a
responsibility for the care and welfare of children."
A focus of the task force has - and
will continue to be - "groomers".
"They engage the child in activities they would find appealing -
spending money on them and providing gifts, as well as just spending
time with the child and allowing
them to do things that parents may
not, such as smoking or drinking,"
Supt Stevens said.
"The grooming process then escalates to the point where the offender introduces
pornography, intimate touching and sexually-based
conversations with the child."
He said they often used the same
principles against the parents or
guardians of the intended victim by
"developing a level of trust and
access that allows them to offend
against the child".
"The majority of allegations received by the task force involve
scenarios where the offender has
used the grooming process to commit offences," he said.
Victims of child sexual abuse are
urged to contact police through
CrimeStoppers 1800 333 000 or
Respond SA, the Adult Childhood
Sexual Abuse Service.
"We hope other victims will be
encouraged by these outcomes and
come forward and report their matters," Supt Stevens said.
Sunday Mail (10-10-2004)