The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program

The 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.

Figure 1: Law Enforcement Agencies Participating in the ICAC Task Force Program
A map of participating Law Enforcement Agencies in the ICAC Task Force Program by State and date of operation.
Starting operations in spring of 1999 were the Bedford County, VA, Sheriff’s Department; Broward County, FL, Sheriff’s Department; Colorado Springs, CO, Police Department; Dallas, TX, Police Department; Illinois State Police; New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services; Portsmouth, NH, Police Department (including Maine State Police, New Hampshire State Police, and Chittendon County, VT); Sacramento County, CA, Sheriff’s Office; South Carolina Office of the Attorney General; and the Wisconsin Department of Justice.
Starting operations in spring of 2000 were the Delaware County, PA, District Attorney; Michigan State Police; Seattle, WA, Police Department; Utah Office of the Attorney General; Nebraska State Patrol; Connecticut State Police; Massachusetts Department of Public Safety; Las Vegas, NV, Metropolitan Police Department; Maryland State Police; and the Knoxville, TN, Police Department.
Starting operations in summer of 2000 were the Alabama Department of Public Safety; Cuyahoga County, OH, District Attorney; Hawaii Office of the Attorney General; North Carolina Division of Criminal Investigation; Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation; Phoenix, AZ, Police Department; Saint Paul, MN, Police Department; San Diego, CA, Police Department; Sedgwick County, KS, Sheriff’s Office; and the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation.
Note: The agencies shown are those participating in the program as of September 2001.

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.

Figure 2: CyberTipline Citizen Reports, July 1, 1998, to June 30, 2001
Pie graph of total CyberTipline Citizen reports from July 1, 1998, to June 30, 2001, by type.

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 Online—Unit 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.

ICAC Task Force Program in Action

  • A citizen contacts NCMEC's CyberTipline to report that an adult male is using the Internet to locate minors for sex. CyberTipline analysts forward the information to ICAC Task Force officers, who begin an inquiry into the subject's online activities. The subject forwards nude photographs as he schedules a meeting with the undercover officers. Upon arresting the offender, the officers learn that he had previously victimized four children who were ages 8–11.

  • A middle-aged male sends child pornographic photos and a video to an undercover officer posing as a 13-year-old boy. He invites the "boy" to his house to watch some other child pornographic videos and later admits his sexual intent. A search of his home reveals more than 1,000 pornographic videotapes (many of them containing child pornography), hundreds of photographs of child pornography, and numerous magazines and calendars depicting children in sexually explicit positions.

  • Task Force members execute a search warrant at the residence of a registered sex offender and seize his computer. An examination of the computer locates three additional victims living more than 2,500 miles away whom the suspect had abused for years.

  • A Task Force undercover operation results in the arrest of a middle-aged man after he drives nearly 1,000 miles to meet a 14-year-old girl for sex. Following his arrest, the officers seize an axe handle, shovel, and several gallons of gasoline from the trunk of his car. The suspect's house includes a dungeon outfitted with torture instruments and an extensive collection of serial killer videotapes.

  • Parents notify Task Force investigators of their concerns about a chatroom relationship their 14-year-old son has developed with a stranger. Officers assume the boy's online identity and, within 2 days, the suspect makes arrangements for a sexual encounter with the boy.

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:

  • Be a State or local law enforcement agency.

  • Agree to comply with the ICAC Task Force Operational and Investigative Standards.

  • Agree to accept and act on referrals from ICAC Task Force agencies and NCMEC's CyberTipline.

  • Participate in the annual National ICAC Task Force Training Conference.

  • Successfully complete NCMEC's PCO UC course prior to application. ISI agencies agree to make referrals to other agencies participating in the ICAC Task Force Program, when appropriate, and to receive referrals from these agencies.

Agencies Currently Participating in the Investigative Satellite Initiative

Arkansas
Homer Police Department

California
San Francisco Police Department
Stanislaus County Sheriff’s
    Office
Vacaville Police Department
Walnut Creek Police Department

Colorado
Douglas County Sheriff’s Office

Connecticut
Milford Police Department

Florida
Seminole County Sheriff’s
    Office

Illinois
Chicago Police Department

Indiana
Indiana State Police

Louisiana
Gonzales Police Department
New Orleans Police Department

Massachusetts
Berkshire Office of the District
   Attorney
Boston Police Department
Northwest Massachusetts Office
   of the District Attorney

Michigan
Glendale Police Department
Saginaw County Sheriff’s Office

Minnesota
Hutchinson Police Department

Missouri
State Technical Assistance Team

Nevada
Washoe County Sheriff’s Office

New Hampshire
New London Police Department

New Jersey
New Jersey State Police
Ocean County Prosecutor’s
    Office

New Mexico
Office of the Attorney General

New York
Bronx County District Attorney
Colonie Police Department
Clarkstown Police Department
Erie County Sheriff’s Office
Rockland County Sheriff’s Office
Ulster County Sheriff’s Office

North Dakota
Office of the Attorney General

South Dakota
Pennington Sheriff’s Office

Texas
Austin Police Department
Bexar County Sheriff’s
    Department
Corpus Christi Police Department
Garland Police Department

Virginia
Albemarle County Sheriff’s Office
Fairfax Police Department

Washington
Kennewick Police Department
Office of the Pierce County
   Prosecuting Attorney
Spokane Police Department
Washington State Patrol

Wisconsin
Oconomowoc Police Department

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.



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Protecting Children in Cyberspace:
The ICAC Task Force Program
Juvenile Justice Bulletin January 2002