The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force ProgramThe increasing number of children and teenagers using the Internet, the proliferation of child pornography, and the heightened activity by predators searching for unsupervised contact with underage victims present both a significant threat to the health and safety of young people and a formidable challenge for law enforcement. Recognizing this challenge, OJJDP created the ICAC Task Force Program under the authority of the fiscal year (FY) 1998 Justice Appropriations Act, Public Law 105–119, and continued funding the program with successive appropriations in FYs 1999, 2000, and 2001. The purpose of the ICAC Program is to help State and local law enforcement agencies develop an effective response to cyberenticement and child pornography cases that encompasses forensic and investigative components, training and technical assistance, victim services, and community education. As of September 2001, 30 regional task forces (see figure 1) and 43 investigative satellites (see Agencies Currently Participating in the Investigative Satellite Initiative), involving the efforts of 160 State and local law enforcement agencies in 39 States, are participating in the program.
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children
Under a separate appropriation, NCMEC supports the ICAC Task Force Program with a wide range of activities to protect children in cyberspace. The CyberTipline, a one-stop reporting point for citizens concerned about suspicious activity on the Internet, is designed to provide pertinent lead information to Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies for investigative followup. The CyberTipline, which began operation in March 1998, has received more than 40,000 reports regarding the sexual exploitation of children (see figure 2). Currently, more than 9 out of 10 reports to NCMEC are entered online at www.cybertipline.com, where specially trained analysts review and verify the information prior to forwarding it to the appropriate law enforcement agency. Many of these reports have launched successful investigations through which offenders have been arrested and victims rescued. CyberTipline II, an enhanced CyberTipline, is up and running as a result of the Internet Service Providers (ISPs) Mandatory Reporting Law, 42 U.S. § 13032(b)(1), which requires ISPs to report any apparent child pornography to NCMEC. CyberTipline II can handle a much higher volume of online traffic than CyberTipline and can accept information such as photographs, videos, and other materials involving children that appear to be sexually explicit. Law enforcement agencies can now view these materials immediately upon receipt of a CyberTipline II report.
NCMEC also offers two courses for law enforcement agencies interested in improving their response to online crimes against children. The week-long Protecting Children Online (PCO) course features modules pertaining to investigative techniques, interview strategies, and offender behavioral characteristics and provides important information about additional Federal resources that are available to assist officers investigating cases of child pornography and online enticement. The Protecting Children OnlineUnit Commander (PCO UC) course focuses on managers and executives from law enforcement agencies who are interested in improving their response to these offenses. Held monthly at NCMEC, the 21/2-day course discusses liability issues and provides model policies and procedures to encourage agencies to develop a comprehensive response for their community.
Regional ICAC Task Forces
Regional task forces throughout the country are designed to provide forensic, prevention, and investigation assistance to parents, educators, prosecutors, law enforcement, and those professionals working on child victimization issues. OJJDP provides funds for personnel, training, and specialized equipment and encourages agencies to adopt multidisciplinary and multiagency responses to conduct prevention and enforcement activities.
Investigative Satellite Initiative
To enhance the geographical impact of the ICAC Task Force Program, OJJDP recently created the Investigative Satellite Initiative (ISI). Under ISI, agencies lacking sufficient personnel resources to commit to forming full-time task forces can still receive funding to acquire specialized equipment and training. To participate in this program, agencies must meet the following criteria:
ICAC Task Force Board of Directors
Activities of the regional task forces and investigative satellites are coordinated by the ICAC Task Force Board of Directors. Composed of law enforcement managers and prosecutors appointed by agencies participating in the regional task force program, the Board meets quarterly and plays a very important role in reviewing enforcement proposals, formulating policy recommendations, and assessing training and technical assistance needs for OJJDP. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), U.S. Customs Service, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and NCMEC serve as technical advisors, and the U.S. Department of Justice, Criminal Division, Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS) provides counsel as legal advisor.
ICAC Task Force Training and Technical Assistance Program
SEARCH Group, Inc., of Sacramento, CA, conducts a wide range of training and technical assistance activities for OJJDP that build on the NCMEC PCO curriculum. Using a mobile computer laboratory, SEARCH Group, Inc., offers the Investigation of Online Child Exploitation course on a regional basis throughout the country. Featuring a hands-on training environment, this week-long course provides frontline personnel with information about advanced investigative strategies for responding to child pornography and cyberenticement cases. As of summer 2001, SEARCH Group, Inc., also offers Media Management, a course that is designed to enable investigators to pinpoint the location of evidence on electronic media.