Agencies involved with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force have one goal in min — keeping our children safe.
The ICAC was started in 1998, after Wyoming police investigator, Flint Waters, discovered his passion for helping and protecting children. He observed that there were a lot of sex offenders and exploitation of children online and wanted to put an end to it. He developed a software that could track online predators by identifying computers that were trading child pornography on file-sharing networks.
The program began with only 10 task forces across the United States, but today has more than 61 containing more than 3,000 federal, state and local law enforcement and prosecution agencies, including the LaGrange Police Department.
Detective Christopher Pritchett started the ICAC program at the LaGrange Police Department in 2008, after his supervisor suggested that they start a new computer crime unit. He looked into various areas and found out about ICAC and contacted the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to get involved. After conducting research, he decided to go through the four training classes required in order to implement the program.
To find out who is accessing and downloading images of child porn, a secure undercover program is used, in which the agencies can log in and see child porn files and those associated, along with an IP address of the computer containing the files. In the ICAC training, officers learn common terms, abbreviations and phrases used in file names containing child porn. On most file sharing networks, you are able to obtain files from another’s computer with their permission and browse to see what they have. The commonly used child porn terms are browsed and files containing the terms will appear on the requesting screen. Even if those responsible for naming the files decide to change the file name to something less obvious, agents are still able to detect it as child porn.
“You can still find the original names with the digital fingerprint system that will find it in the algorithm, which is 99 times more accurate than DNA.” described Pritchett. “It’s kind of like a vin number on a car; the name will be the same, but the the vin is like the fingerprint.”
Since 2008, Pritchett has led 10 cases under ICAC in the counties of Troup, Heard, and Merriweather, with his most recent and largest case being over 25,000 images of child porn found on the hard drives of former TV-33 owner, Peter Mallory in March 2011.
With such a heavy workload outside of his ICAC cases, Pritchett decided to bring Detective William Nelson into the program, after Nelson had expressed great interest, and more recently Detective Wayne Cato was brought into the program, and is currently undergoing trianing.
“Although we are only able to do it part-time, the guys involved with it are very dedicated.” said Pritchett. “These images are horrible things to have to look at and some people don’t have the mindset to do it, but these guys are very dedicated to helping.”
Nelson came into the ICAC Task Force in 2009, after being promoted to detective. He was familiar with social networking and spent a lot of time reading about the ICAC program. After the three-month training in the ICAC classes, spread out through the course of a year, he completed the program training.
“We use the dashboard developed by law enforcement to find people what drives the market for child porn and see where those images are being offered for trade.” said Nelson. “We want to make sure those children are safe and get those arrested who are accessing those files.”
Nelson said that he has found that studies show a correlation between those who have been convicted as hands on child offenders and those that possess child porn. He described this correlation in the Butner Study, most of those who possess child porn will become hands on offenders.
“We want to stop the market for child porn and make sure the people with these files are not becoming hands on offenders.” said Nelson.
The program also helps to locate and rescue the child victims in the images and videos. Agents around the world can leave comments about an image or video about a specific item or background that the may recognize, that can sometimes be traced to a location.
“There are always new challenges. We’ve learned so much from the Mallory case.” said Nelson. “We’ve advanced so much since the beginning.”
Ultimately the goal is to find all perpetrators of child porn and protect the victims from future victimization.
“Everything makes full circles and it’s coming.” said Pritchett.