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Missouri task force a national leader in preventing Internet crimes against children

Monday, September 13, 2010 | 8:44 p.m. CDT

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:

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  • 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.


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Comments

Abby Forshey September 15, 2010 | 2:51 p.m.

I just wish the task force would find a way to prevent the "videos" or "pictures" from even being allowed on the computer. I feel as if by taking away the access completely would take away from people being curious or having an interest in such things as child pornograpy. The task force also goes and targest innocent people on this. You may not even know that the video is on your computer. But they dont care. They still get you for it. I just find it a shame that innocent people pay the price for something that the task force is so hard on. A virus could cause this to be on your computer. Someone could have used your computer and you not know they had put it there. I am not impressed with what the task force is doing. Too many innocent people are getting stamped as sex offenders. Whent they are great, hard working citizens. The task force should be ashamed of the lives they affect with such little proof.

(Report Comment)
RENEE DAVIS September 15, 2010 | 8:38 p.m.

Take pictures and video off of the internet????? Now, if you can develop a way to do that, then you would own Bill Gates himself! As for the "virus'" that invade our systems, there are programs to prevent that. Warrants and arrests are not made just on a "virus". It is numerous, intentional downloads and personal posession of multiple DVD's of children being horrible sexually abused...these "innocent people" are the ones that get what they deserve. After the interviews and investigations are complete, the accused plead guilty in a court of law and try to appologise for "moments of weakness ". You can think what you want, or, volunteer at a children's crisis center...better yet, go to a local trial for one of these "innocent people" and see the pictures and hear what comes out of their mouths. You will be enlightened and very suprised. Then, come back and post another comment based on knowledge. Do you know someone personally that may have a virus?????

(Report Comment)
John Schultz September 16, 2010 | 7:42 a.m.

Renee, it is more than possible for child porn to be placed upon your computer, whether by a virus, malware, or someone with bad intentions towards you. While not child porn, I'm reminded of a teacher who lost her job due to an unsecured computer in her classrom contracting a virus and displaying porn popup, which she was unable to stop. She was fired but later reinstated after private individuals helped exonerate her. Criminals are constantly finding flaws that would allow them to access your computer, no matter what anti-virus or firewall software you own, so it is incumbent upon law enforcement and prosecutors to show that child porn was willingly downloaded by a suspect.

(Report Comment)
Jake Sherlock September 16, 2010 | 10:33 a.m.

John,

Your post reminds me a story from my teaching days back at the University of Wyoming. This was back when I was a graduate assistant for the journalism department's beginning reporting class, so it was a little more than 10 years ago.

Anyway, a student was trying to research an article (the subject of which escapes me) when she accidently found her way to a disguised porn site. And it was a malicious little site too -- it kept popping up pictures that she didn't want to see, and that she didn't want the rest of the class to see, in a sort of endless loop. Everytime she'd close one of the windows, another one of the same picture would pop up (this was back before pop-up blockers were the norm). She was mortified.

She finally called me over to her desk for help, completely embarrassed at what happened. I'm sure if the university IT department had looked at the cookies associated with her login account, she could have gotten in trouble for violating the school's proper-use policy. Fortunately, we were able to just reboot the computer and everything was fine.

So yes, you can end up with porn on your computer without your knowledge.

Jake Sherlock
Opinion editor

(Report Comment)

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