Special report-child predators part two - WVVA TV Bluefield Beckley WV News, Weather and Sports

Special report-child predators part two

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For more than a decade, child predators have been using the Internet to download sexually explicit material of children.

Until recently, Internet crimes against children were investigated by special task forces on the state level, but now local cops are taking on more of these cases and the extra attention is paying off.     

Police say that is nearly impossible for a predator to stay anonymous while online, no matter how slick or knowledgeable they may be. Investigators have learned how to catch these criminals with the aid of new technologies and information gathered from convicted sexual predators.

The possession of child pornography is a class six felony in the Commonwealth of Virginia.

"You are going to get caught. A lot of people assume that if you go to a hot spot or a library, or the town hall, with free wi-fi that we don't know, that you are safe. Well, you are not," says Investigator Mike Brown with the Bluefield, Virginia Police Department.

If those images are downloaded off a peer to peer sharing network, the predator will face additional charges.

Brown comments, "If I download a file to my shared folder, anybody and everybody can download that from my shared folder so now you are looking at the distribution of child pornography as well."

Investigator Brown says that a child's innocence can never be replaced and it is there job to protect the children at all costs.

"Children get abducted, they are forced into child prostitution, and they are forced into child pornography. My role is to catch these guys before it goes that far," says Brown.

"You don't know until we interview that person whether they have committed a crime against a child as far as physically," says Chief Greg Layne with the Tazewell, Virginia Police Department.

Investigations are usually conducted in the office and they typically take about three weeks to complete. Once a computer has been identified, the investigator uses specialized software and ultra-peer networks to find out all the files that have been downloaded to the machine. It sounds a bit technical, but the process is similar to a peer to peer music download.

"Some of the stuff that I have downloaded and seen, just by the file name, there is no question of what that file contains," says Brown.

Once enough evidence is collected, a search warrant is obtained. Basic forensics is done in the office and then the device is sent to a crime lab for further evaluation.

"I hate the stuff that I have to do and see when I am online. The payoff is worth it, getting these guys behind bars and off the streets," says Brown.

On July 29, Investigator Brown will hold a seminar on Internet safety. The session with begin at 7:00 PM at the town hall in Bluefield, Virginia.

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