Funding sought to fight child porn
By ELISA A. GLUSHEFSKI
Friday, February 8, 2008
There are 467 known computer hard drives containing child pornography in Woodbridge, 353 in Manassas and thousands more throughout the state, according to the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
But a lack of resources has meant that cases that often involve the trading of images and videos of children have gone unpursued.
"Alicia's Law" - named for a 13-year-old Pennsylvania girl who six years ago was brought to Northern Virginia by an online predator, raped and tortured - aims to fix that.
The proposed legislation, sponsored by Del. Brian J. Moran, D-Alexandria, calls for $18 million, which would fund three initiatives, said Jesse Ferguson, a spokesman for Moran.
Of that, he said, approximately $6 million would go to expanding the regional task force by putting a cyber unit in each county; about $9 million to create three regional computer forensic labs that would alleviate the current backlog; and the last $3 million would go to the Department of Criminal Justice Services for grants that would provide incentive for other localities to track and catch online predators.
"Recognizing that we're in a tough budget year and a tough fiscal climate for the state, we are hopeful that the appropriations committee is going to be fund some of this initiative," Ferguson said. "We recognize that we won't get it all, but the urgency is too great to not get some."
Ferguson said they would find out how much money will be allocated to this initiative when the House Appropriations Committee releases its budget proposal Feb. 17.
During a recent briefing in Richmond on the proposed law, officials with the northern and southern Virginia ICAC task forces said law enforcement has logged more than 215,000 felony transactions of child pornography in the state since 2005.
Meanwhile, there are only 48 people trained and licensed in the state to investigate these crimes, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.
The testimony of Flint Waters, lead special agent of the Wyoming ICAC Task Force, before the House Judiciary Committee in October 2007 underscored the challenges felt by law enforcement agencies trying to combat this problem around the nation.
"The bad news is that while my task force and the ICAC network can tell you how to interdict tens of thousands sexual predators tomorrow, the vast majority of these leads will never be investigated," Waters testified. "In fact, less than 2 percent of these crimes that we know about are investigated due to the sheer lack of resources. Most of these victims will not be rescued.
"I'm here today to testify about what many of my law enforcement colleagues are not free to come here and tell you. We are overwhelmed, we are underfunded and we are drowning in a tidal wave of tragedy. We don't have the resources we need to save these children."
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