A girl studying in Class 9 is too scared to step out of her house. The reason? Lewd text messages that landed on her mobile phone from a boy in Delhi, who she thought was her friend. The cyber crime division of the Mumbai police is now investigating the case.
This is not a unique case of tech savvy minors getting on the wrong side of the law. Officers of the Investigation Cell monitoring cyberspace said the involvement of teenagers, including a girl, surfaced in four of the 19 cases registered with the cell in 2008.
Four of the 14 cases—28.5 per cent — registered in 2009 held teenagers responsible for the crime. The police said teenagers were never found to be involved in the 57 cases registered between 2001-2007.
In most cases, where the offence is not damaging, teenagers are reprimanded, told of the consequences and set free. A case is registered, and the accused teenager arrested only if the crime committed is severe.
Even then, 21 per cent of those arrested for cyber crime offences in 2008 were under the age of 18. The police say motives range from plain fun, to anger, revenge, love and sex. Senior Police Inspector, Cyber Crime Investigation Cell, Mukund Pawar, said, “Money has never been the motive in cases linked to juvenile offenders.”
Experts add that most of the time, the minors are not even aware that they are committing a crime.
“Not being aware of what constitutes crimes in cyberspace is a major issue. Most adults are also ignorant about laws governing cyberspace,” Pawar said.
Social networking sites are a fertile ground for teenage offenders. Lately, cell phones are also being used. “Most of the time the accused turns out to be someone who is known to the victim,” said Police Inspector, Sunil Ghosalkar, of the Cyber Crime investigation unit (Western Suburbs).
In most cases, complainants do not lodge a First Information Report when they find that the accused is someone known, Ghosalkar said.
Vijay Mukhi, a cyber expert with the Mumbai police, attributed the increase in cyber crime to the fact that most Internet users are adolescents and teenagers. “Since the majority of those using the cyberspace are youngsters, the offences will definitely involve a high percentage of them,” Mukhi said.