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Our kids are our most precious resource. Families work very hard to raise them, pass along values and traditions, educate them, and give them every opportunity to achieve their dreams. At the Department of Justice, we also work very hard to protect them. Nowhere is this commitment greater than in our efforts to fight Internet predators.
While the Internet has opened many doors for our children, from education to communication to entertainment, it has also become an active crime scene. Online sex predators use technology to connect with kids, using all the tools they use: instant messaging, picture and video trading, chat rooms, web cameras, web microphones, social networking sites like MyYearbook and Facebook, and even online gaming networks like X-Box Live.
Child pornographers have invaded the Internet in many forms. Commercial pornography websites find an endless supply of customers in the U.S., including in Wisconsin. Others use chat rooms to obtain and trade images and movies, while some simply use their own digital cameras, camcorders, or cell phones to manufacture images. As for cell phones, have you heard the term “sexting?” It refers to sexually explicit text messages and photos through cellular telephones. Often, predators use cell phones to further their exploitation of children after meeting those children online.
Predators also use file sharing programs which many parents believe are just used for music. Those same file sharing programs are venues for child predators to collect and share child pornography images and videos.
Statistics kept by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) illustrate the scope of the problem:
To make matters more disturbing, surveys have shown a correlation between child pornographers and child molesters. In 2005, sobering results were released from a study at the Federal Correctional Institution in Butner, North Carolina. Researchers indicated that of about 200 federal inmates convicted of Internet child pornography crimes, some 85% admitted to molesting children as well.
The Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force of my office's Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) is dedicated to identifying and arresting those predators. In the past five years, the ICAC Task Force has arrested more than 500 offenders and executed more than 900 search warrants. To help prevent children from becoming victims, and to help parents, teachers, and child welfare advocates better protect children, we have educated more than 200,000 citizens of all ages across Wisconsin. Parents are the first line of defense in protecting their children from online predators. We have included some tips for parents to help protect their children.
Last week, the Joint Committee on Finance unanimously approved my request included in Governor Walker's 2011 budget bill for position authority and funding for 8 positions (4 criminal analysts, 3 special agents, and 1 operations program associate) in 2011-12 to provide additional resources to the Internet Crimes Against Children task Force (ICAC) at DOJ, and an additional 3 positions (1 criminal analyst and 2 operations program associates) for ICAC in 2012-13.”
Our DCI professionals partner with a growing list of local law enforcement agencies and Boys and Girls Clubs throughout the state. We now have 168 ICAC affiliates throughout the state, nearly tripling our partnerships since just 2008. Additionally, we work hand-in-hand with our federal counterparts to investigate crimes against children that result in a wide-range of federal charges.
Let it be known to Internet predators: we know you are out there. You cannot hide. Every day we add more partners to our task force that has the sole purpose to identify you and bring you to justice. Law enforcement, along with the people of Wisconsin, has no tolerance for your actions. Your time is running out.
Attorney General Van Hollen's Internet Safety Tips for Parents
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