Anti-social media a crime zone

FACEBOOK and other social media websites are driving crime in Wodonga, according to new statistics released yesterday by Victoria Police.

Overall, crime is up by 12.3 per cent in statistics that compare crime in the 12 months to December last year with the previous 12 months.

Family violence related assaults leapt by 70 per cent while non-domestic assaults dropped by 17 per cent.

Wodonga police area Inspector Tony Davis said the “massive” jump in family violence reports was due to more victims having the confidence to report the crime, while there were several reasons for the non-domestic related assaults.

“It ranges from debts or disputes or things that have been posted on social media,” he said.

Insp Davis said police were seeing offences that started with, or were aggravated by, disputes on social media.

“A significant amount of offences are from comments made on social media, particularly Facebook, and it’s not confined to teenagers,” Insp Davis said.

“A lot of it is childish crap. It’s pathetic.”

Crimes related to social media are now being dealt with in court.

In 2010, a Lavington father was bashed in Kelly Park in Wodonga after he met someone who had allegedly been posting offensive information on Facebook about his daughter.

Last month, an Albury man was sentenced in the Wodonga Magistrates’ Court to six months in jail for threatening his ex-partner’s life on Facebook. The sentence has been appealed.

Wodonga Magistrates Court is regularly hearing intervention order applications resulting from alleged harassment on Facebook.

Leading Sen-Constable Kevin Mack is Wodonga police’s youth resources officer and he said fights were being arranged using Facebook.

“Social media is a key driver behind a lot of our violence and a lot of our issues with young people,” he said.

“Years ago we used to talk face-to-face about these sorts of things with maybe a fight, maybe not a fight, but now they talk on social media, it gains momentum and, suddenly, instead of having a simple disagreement it is a major confrontation.

“They stage fights and six or seven combatants turn up. It’s just horrendous.”

Melbourne cyber-safety expert Susan McLean, a former police officer, said Insp Davis’ comments were not a surprise with violence stemming from Facebook becoming more prevalent across the state.

“It is absolutely going to keep growing,” she said.

Ms McLean said Victoria Police needed to train its officers on cyber-related offences, police cyberspace and prosecute people for posting threats.

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