KENTUCKY INTERNET CRIMES AGAINST CHILDREN TASK FORCE
The Internet has changed our world forever. We have unlimited access to news, shopping, online communities, etc. When used responsibly, it is a great asset in our daily lives, but like anything else, there are people whose intent is to use it to victimize or manipulate others. According to a 2018 Pew Research study, 59% of teens reveal that they have been the target of some form of cyberbullying, with name calling and rumor-spreading being the most common forms of harassment. This type of behavior has gone on since the beginning of time, but smartphones mean that this can become a nonstop part of a teen’s life. The manufacture, distribution, and possession of child pornography, which used to be a very secretive “underworld” industry, now thrives because the Internet has made it so easily accessible. Social networking sites and unsupervised Internet usage have created an open forum for predators who seek contact with our children. The Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force program was created specifically to enable state and local law enforcement agencies to develop an effective response to technology-facilitated child sexual exploitation and crimes against children.
The ICAC program, established by the U.S. Department of Justice in 1998, is a national network of 61 regional task forces representing over 4,500 federal, state, and local law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies. As the lead law enforcement agency for the KYICAC, the Kentucky State Police has dedicated investigators, forensic examiners, and administrative personnel who work closely with our affiliate agencies on this initiative. Our mission to implement an effective response to these crimes has several components: the ability to investigate and prosecute offenders; the analysis of digital evidence seized as part of these crimes; and Internet safety education providing information on appropriate online behavior and how to report crimes when they occur.
The KYICAC works alongside some very important partners in response to these crimes. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) exists to assist law enforcement and the public to recover missing children and combat child sexual exploitation. Accessible to the public, NCMEC’s CyberTipline can be used to report any type of child abuse, from child pornography to child molestation to child sex trafficking. After a preliminary analysis at NCMEC, a report is generated and sent to the ICAC Task Force in that jurisdiction, at which time it will be assigned to an investigator. In addition to the CyberTipline, the NCMEC website provides numerous resources relating to public awareness, education, and other issues relevant to child safety.
 A Majority of Teens Have Experienced Some Form of cyberbullying, Pew Research Center, September 2018. https://www.pewinternet.org/2018/09/27/a-majority-of-teens-have-experienced-some-form-of-cyberbullying/, accessed August 29, 2019.
PROJECT SAFE CHILDHOOD
Project Safe Childhood (PSC) was launched by the Department of Justice in 2006, led by the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS). This project incentivizes the federal prosecution of offenders when feasible, as federal sentences are normally longer, without the possibility of parole. The KYICAC collaborates with PSC partners for successful prosecutions, as well as for public outreach and training for law enforcement, the judiciary, and all other professionals involved in combatting these crimes.
Teaching our children to be good digital citizens is commendable, but unfortunately, that does not guarantee their online safety. Just as there is no one method of approach that can effectively deter child victimization, no single agency can be successful working independently. The KYICAC and its partners work together to eliminate geographic boundaries and share resources among agencies to create a multi-jurisdictional, multi-disciplinary task force committed to keeping our children safe.
There are five major components of this initiative:
- Integrated federal, state, and local efforts to investigate and prosecute child exploitation cases and to identify and rescue child victims.
- Major case coordination with PSC partners in pursuing local leads that result from national operations.
- Increased federal involvement in child pornography and enticement cases.
- Training of federal, state, and local law enforcement.
- Community awareness and educational programs.
This initiative proposes a more coordinated national effort in order to maximize resources to obtain the strictest penalties possible under state or federal law for those who seek to harm our children.