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Limited funds hinder child porn fight

Date: April 17, 2008
Source: USAtoday.com
By: Wendy Koch

More than 624,000 computers in the USA have traded child pornography, much of it showing the sexual abuse of very young children, in the past 2 years, a leading police authority planned to tell Congress at a hearing Wednesday.

Yet federal authorities with limited resources pursue fewer than 1% of the leads, according to a USA TODAY analysis of government data.

Flint Waters, chief of the Wyoming Internet Crimes Against Children task force, has been tracking child porn to specific computers, by serial number, since October 2005. He says that last year, he identified nearly half the computers, 267,120, on just one online network.

U.S. attorneys prosecuted 1,705 cases last year and won 1,409 convictions, according to court records obtained by Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse at Syracuse University. The Justice Department says the numbers are higher — 2,118 prosecutions and 1,715 convictions — but it includes other online crimes against children. The cases result from all kinds of tips, not just those from Waters.

As child pornography becomes increasingly pervasive, spreading from the Internet to cellphones and iPods, police have new tools, such as the software Waters developed, to identify traffickers. A Senate Judiciary Committee hearing today will probe whether law enforcement, given those tools, is doing enough.


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