Study Documents Law Enforcement Efforts Combating Internet Sex Crimes Against Children

National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
Monday, 10 November 2003

Law enforcement in the United States is beginning to have notable success in their effort to combat Internet-related sex crimes against children according to a new studył Internet Sex Crimes Against Minors: The Response of Law Enforcement. The study pointed to more than 2,500 estimated arrests for such crimes from July 1, 2000, through June 30, 2001, extensive cooperation among local, state and federal agencies and the effective use of undercover sting operations as some indicators of success. In addition, prosecutions of these Internet-related crimes appear to be more successful than prosecutions for other child sex crimes.

"This study provides the first research-based national overview of how sex offenders are using the Internet to exploit children and how law enforcement agencies are responding," stated National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) President Ernie Allen. "It documents how this problem confronts law enforcement all across the country at every level, and emphasizes the importance of continued training, education and prevention efforts."

Through its cooperative agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, NCMEC commissioned the study conducted by the Crimes against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire.

The study found law enforcement pursuing Internet sex crime in a variety of ways. Nearly 40% of arrested offenders were involved in criminal relationships with actual children, which were mostly reported to law enforcement by victims, their families and other individuals. A quarter of the arrests came from undercover operations in which agents, posing as minors on the Internet, were themselves solicited for sexual acts. Slightly more than one-third of the arrests were of offenders who had not solicited victims, but had used the Internet to download and trade child pornography.

These criminal activities were of a generally serious nature. For example, 83% of arrested offenders who possessed child pornography had sexual images of children between the ages of 6 and 12 and 80% had images which explicitly depicted the sexual penetration of minors.

The research, based on a national survey of law enforcement agencies and more than 600 interviews with criminal investigators, highlighted the complex nature of the challenges posed by Internet sex crimes against minors. Because offenders often reside far from their victims and violate both state and federal law, most of the investigations involved agencies in multiple jurisdictions, and in nearly half, a federal agency as well, such as the FBI or the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

In spite of this complexity, the report found that 95 percent of the state and 93 percent of the federal prosecutions led to convictions. The report attributed some of this success to the extensive electronic evidence that frequently exists when crimes involve the Internet.

The report urged continued training for law enforcement in the techniques for combating Internet sex crimes, with particular emphasis on methods for multi-jurisdictional co-operation.

To read a copy of the report, please visit "Featured Publications" at www.missingkids.com or call 1.800.843.5678 to order a copy.

For more information, or to contact National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, see their website at: www.missingkids.org

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