Internet task force has arrested 42 since inception in January

Sunday, June 24, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 7:38 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2008

With a recent spate of arrests of suspected child predators, the Mid-Missouri Internet Crimes Task Force is quickly establishing itself as one of the most well-known law enforcement agencies in the region.

Months of investigation by the task force and cooperating agencies culminated last week in the arrests of four people suspected of committing Internet crimes against children.

The task force’s main targets are sexual predators who commit crimes against children with the help of the Internet.

Andy Anderson, a detective with the Boone County Sheriff’s department, said that since the task force’s inception in January, the organization has arrested 42 people from several states and is currently investigating more than 25 suspects.

Assistant Boone County Prosecutor Nicole Gorovsky, the task force’s lead attorney, said detectives are not allowed to initiate a sexual conversation with a suspected predator, but may respond to him or her once it has begun. Gorovsky said she anticipates more cases like these in the future.

“It’s not because these kinds of crimes are increasing,” she said. “It’s because we’re getting better at investigating them.”

The three types of crimes that the task force tries to stop are the enticement or exploitation of children for sexual purposes, obscenity toward children and the promotion of child pornography.

“You don’t have set hours,” said Anderson, also the coordinator of the task force. “We work when it is necessary.”

Anderson said he and two other full-time task force detectives spend time online posing as children or using other false identities to catch predators. But investigators are not always the only people to make contact with suspected predators.

“We’ve arrested people who are in the process of enticing real-life kids,” he said.

Although Internet technology usually provides investigators with the capability to identify suspects, sometimes they can avoid detection.

“Sometimes people with wireless Internet may not secure it and these criminals might be using it,” Anderson said.

He said if a wireless connection is unprotected, predators could tap into the account­ —impairing the detectives’ ability to discern between the real host and the criminal user.

The task force received a $30,000 grant from state legislators in 2006. This year, it has applied for $135,000 in grants.

“Although we get that grant from the state, it’s really just a portion” of the unit’s funding, Anderson said. The task force receives donations from local businesses and free Internet service from local Internet service provider

The task force works with similar agencies to make arrests outside of its jurisdiction, as with the case of Edgar Evans, 50, who was arrested last week at his home in Paris, Texas.

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