By Rodney Brewer, Kentucky State Police Commissioner
The Internet has become an important part of our everyday lives - for information, communication and entertainment. The most receptive segment of our population, our young people, have readily accepted and experimented with these technological advances, opening them up to many positive experiences. However, this curiosity can result in their victimization by those who would use technology to exploit them.
In 1999, the Kentucky State Police (KSP) recognized the need to combat online crime and the proliferation of online child exploitation. In 2003, a federal grant helped to create a task force to provide state, local and federal law enforcement agencies within Kentucky the proper training and procedures for investigating offenders who use the Internet and other forms of technology to exploit children.
Currently, the Kentucky Internet Crimes Against Children (KY ICAC) is one of 59 regional task forces throughout the nation. As the lead agency for the Kentucky program, KSP is responsible for the overall management and administration of the program. However, as the title task force implies, we cannot accomplish our goals through the work of one agency alone. Presently, there are 21 law enforcement agencies participating in KY ICAC, creating a statewide network of investigators, forensic examiners and prosecutors who are all focused on protecting our children from the dangers of online predators. Participating agencies abide by nationally established standards to ensure consistency and sound investigative procedures regarding child sexual exploitation cases.
The ICAC program adopts a beginning to end philosophy and is dedicated to long-term solutions for solving these crimes. While there is a strong emphasis on properly training and equipping investigators throughout the state, public awareness is also vitally important. Presentations aimed at preventing exploitation are conducted regularly by ICAC personnel at schools and community groups throughout the commonwealth. Additionally, KSP and several of the participating agencies have been trained and are equipped to conduct forensic examinations of digital evidence seized as part of these investigations, thereby ensuring the consistency and quality of evidence presented at prosecution.
To illustrate the comprehensive and methodical approach of the ICAC program, in October 2006, the KY ICAC conducted Operation Harvest Moon. This initiative, conducted over several months, was a multi-agency effort to round up suspects involved in online child sexual exploitation and registered sex offenders deemed noncompliant with legal residency requirements. This investigation resulted in 11 federal indictments and several state investigations on individuals, including charges of possession, receipt and distribution of child pornography. In addition, 37 noncompliant sex offenders were arrested for living within 1,000 feet of a restricted area.
Over the past two years, the KY ICAC program has made great strides, doubling the number of agencies on the task force. Although the number of complaints continues to rise, the agencies involved in this process are fully committed to apprehending the offenders that prey on our children. To learn more about the efforts being made regarding KY ICAC, log on to the KSP Web site at www.kentuckystatepolice.org and click on Internet Crimes Against Children.