Captain Mike Edwards runs the Seattle Police Department's task force for Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC). The Seattle Police Department is the lead agency for the Washington State Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which is a member of the national ICAC organization. ICAC is made up of various state and federal task forces, and was started in 1998. Seattle pays $1.5 million annually for this program, and Captain Edwards recently secured an additional $1.3 million from the Washington legislature for it, allowing them to expand their program and arrest more child pornographers.
His program, as well as their interactions with King County and Federal prosecutors is described in a recent Seattle PI article written by Levi Pulkkinen that can be accessed here. The article outlines Washington's dubious distinction as the number one state, per capita, for trading of online child pornography. Overall, Washington ranks in the top five states when it comes to peer-to-peer network users who are trading child pornography. The other leading states are California, Florida, New York and Texas.
The ICAC Program, began with ten task forces across the United States, but today consists of 61 coordinated task forces representing more than 3,000 Federal, state and local law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies. These agencies are engaged in reactive, proactive, and forensic investigations, as well as criminal prosecutions. The ICAC Program is funded in part by the Department of Justice's (DOJ) Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP ). DOJ believes that by assisting agencies, both state and local to develop "effective, sustainable responses to online child victimization and child pornography", they are increasing the OJJDP's capacity to address Internet crimes against children. As a practical matter, local agencies compete for federal and state funding, in order to secure more manpower and resources to address the problem of child pornography.
The Seattle Police Department's task force currently consists of six detectives, who receive approximately 100 tips per week from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). These tips are received from a variety of sources, often times from the companies that unknowingly host, store, or facilitate the exchange of child pornography. These companies are household names such as Facebook, Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft, and they actively search for child pornography within their customer's accounts. Once these companies locate suspected child pornography, they provide information to NCMEC, which in turn notifies law enforcement in the appropriate jurisdiction. In addition to local law enforcement, the FBI, Secret Service, and Homeland Security all are assisting in these cases.
Chief Edwards is seeking to enlarge the ICAC program to consist of 20 detectives, and five forensic investigators. He is also seeking to open an office in Eastern Washington, to be located in the tri-cities area. The forensic investigations can take a significant period of time due to the backlog of cases, and the lengthy period of time that is required to go through computers, phones, and other electronic media with a proverbial fine tooth comb while looking for items of evidentiary value. In representing persons under investigation for child pornography, I frequently see these forensic investigations take many months.
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