Mid-Missouri task force combats digital sexual exploitation of children

Sunday, March 22, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA — As the digital and technological forum expands at the fingertips of a young generation, its promise looms there as well as its dangers. For many, the Internet is an economical tool that improves the quality of life, but for others it accelerates the exploitation and misfortune of its perhaps most vulnerable pool: the nearly 22 million children logged in, according to a statistic from the National Institute on Media and the Family.

Internet crime includes enticement and exploitation of children for the purposes of sexual tourism for personal or commercial gain, use of the Internet to expose youth to child pornography and encouraging the exchange of child pornography, as well as Internet use to produce, manufacture and distribute child pornography, according to the U.S. Department of Justice's Web site.

Task force serves seven counties

The task force is comprised of the Boone County Sheriff's Department, Columbia Police Department and the Boone County prosecuting attorney's office. The task force serves Boone, Audrain, Callaway, Cole, Cooper, Howard and Randolph counties, according to the task force Web site.

The Mid-Missouri Internet Crimes Task Force is part of a collaborative effort to combat such crimes. The task force has successfully convicted at least 28 offenders since it was established Jan. 1, 2007, said task force Coordinator Andy Anderson. On March 18 in the 13th Judicial Court, a man was convicted of one count of promoting and one count of possessing child pornography. In both cases the pornography involved a child under the age of 14, according to Anderson.

"Although I think it's important that we find people who are committing crimes against children, there are no winners in cases like these," Anderson said.

This week's conviction and preceding investigation was a collaborative effort between the task force, Boone County Sheriff's Department, MU Police Department, MU Technology Department and the Boone County prosecuting attorney's office.

"I think it's been fantastic; I think it's been extremely productive by these results," Anderson said of the collaboration. "I believe strongly that without that collaborative effort we wouldn't be as successful in these types of cases."

The task force has tips for Internet safety, as well as articles concerning safe Internet use. For more information about Internet safety advice and their collaboration, visit their Web site.


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