COLUMBIA — The Missouri task force that works to prevent Internet crimes against children is among the most prolific and well trained in the nation, according to the first-ever study of such units by the U.S. Department of Justice.
The study ranked each of the 61 task force units across the nation on a variety of statistics for fiscal 2008 and the first six months of 2009. Missouri ranked:
- Second nationally among all task forces with 337 arrests, about 6 percent of all arrests in the United States.
- First in computer forensics with 1,441 examinations, about 5 percent of all exams in the United States.
- Second in officer training with 5,810 law enforcement officers having been trained, about 10 percent of all officers trained in the United States.
- Ninth in technical assistance with 567 cases of support to local officers from state and regional task forces.
These placements are in spite of the state task force ranking only 20th in federal funding.
Lt. Joe Laramie, director of the the Missouri Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, works with the Glendale Police Department, which manages the state’s program. Laramie said that there were 93 affiliate agencies in the state, including 10 regional task forces.
“I believe it’s because we are truly a statewide task force,” he said of the group's high ranking. "We are not managing every regional unit. The units are able to operate independently and efficiently, and they are giving a lot of assistance to local law enforcement. I don’t think bureaucracies inspire as much dedication or motivation.”
Detective Andy Anderson of the Boone County Sheriff’s Department directs the Mid-Missouri Internet Crimes Task Force. He said the task force started in January 2007 and incorporates seven counties. Its primary focus is prosecuting crimes against children.
Anderson also said there is an even split between reactive cases, in which police officers address complaints from parents and other concerned citizens, and proactive cases, which are generated by the task force’s undercover branch. The positive publicity surrounding the task force has changed the nature of its work over the past two years.
“Our work was essentially all proactive at first, but as more parents heard about us, they began to report complaints. As we get more publicity, we have more reactive work,” he said.
He also gave an additional explanation for why the state’s task forces ranked among the best in the country.
“Missouri is unique because the task forces are spread across the state, while most states have one agency trying to cover the entire state,” Anderson said.