Challenges of Cyberspace Policing

Over the past 2 years, agencies participating in the ICAC Task Force Program have accomplished the following (statistics submitted by ICAC Task Force members for the March 2001 Monthly Performance Measures Report):

  • Arrested more than 550 individuals for child sexual exploitation offenses.

  • Seized approximately 850 computers.

  • Served 627 search warrants and 1,338 subpoenas.

  • Conducted forensic examinations of more than 1,500 computers for task force investigations and other law enforcement agencies.

  • Provided direct investigative assistance in more than 1,000 cases at the request of other law enforcement agencies.

  • Provided advice in 1,622 instances to other law enforcement agencies.

  • Provided training for more than 1,443 prosecutors and 12,500 law enforcement officers.

  • Reached thousands of children, teenagers, parents, educators, and other individuals through publications, presentations, and public service announcements about safe Internet practices for young people.

Cover of ICAC Task Force Program Standards Based on these statistics and the experience of administering the ICAC Task Force Program over the past 2 years, OJJDP makes the following observations:

  • Although awareness appears to be growing, many children, teenagers, and parents are not sufficiently informed about the dangers and possible repercussions of releasing personal information to or agreeing to meet individuals encountered online. In one instance, it took just 45 minutes for a task force officer (posing as a teenager) to arrange a meeting with a 13-year-old girl living in his jurisdiction. She returned home after the officer spoke with her and her parents about safe online practices.

  • Awareness of the CyberTipline needs to be increased. There have been several task force cases in which suspects went on to victimize other minors after being warned off by a vigilant parent who was not aware of the CyberTipline.

  • The Internet challenges traditional thinking about law enforcement jurisdiction and renders city, county, and State boundaries virtually meaningless. Nearly all (95 percent) ICAC Task Force investigations involve substantial communication and coordination between Federal, State, and local law enforcement agencies. Toward this end, in a major achievement of the program, OJJDP developed the ICAC Task Force Program Standards (hereafter "Standards") to facilitate interagency referrals of child pornography and cyberenticement cases. Developed through a process that combined the perspectives of prosecutors, investigators, and law enforcement executives from Federal, State, and local agencies, the Standards address investigative techniques, evidence collection, prevention efforts, media relations, and management practices.

  • Most investigations are initiated in response to a citizen complaint rather than undercover operations in which officers pose as minors in chatrooms. This finding dispells the belief that these cases are usually manufactured by undercover officers. Another reality is that these cases often involve multiple victims.

  • The Internet places new demands on forensic resources. Computers are piling up in evidence rooms across the country because the existing forensic capacity is inadequate to meet the needs of investigative efforts.

  • A generation ago, officers beginning their law enforcement careers would be issued a uniform, service weapon, and notebook. Those items rarely changed during a 20-year career. Today, changes in equipment and software occur seemingly overnight, and officers are hard pressed to stay current not only with technological changes, but also with a motivated offender community eagerly adapting new advances to exploit children. OJJDP sponsors an annual ICAC conference where investigators and managers can learn about emerging trends and changes in technology that affect their investigations.

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