Why does it matter?
Children are precious members of our society and are often forgotten when “adults” talk about issues related to them. Most often crimes against children are overlooked unless it happens to you or is a major community event.
Just ask the Walsh family or the Ryce Family. Better yet, talk to Alicia Kozakiewicz who at 13 years of age on a cold New Year’s eve was abducted by someone she was communicating with online and who she thought was her age but who turned out to be a 38 year old child predator.
So, when we see pictures of children being abused, it is vitally important to understand that these children are victims of a crime that is repeated every time the picture is resold or reshared. This repetition of the crime, time after time, makes these cases so difficult mentally for investigators. These are not just “pictures”, they are in fact crimes in their own right.
Perpetrators of crimes against children are “preferential sex offenders” as defined by the Nation Criminal Justice Reference Service. They either keep items that belong to the child or they memorialize their molestation by taking pictures or videos of the child as trophies. Every time that image or video is disseminated and viewed by other preferential sex offenders that child is once again abused and made a victim.
I remember my first case dealing with the sexual abuse of a child. It was a joint case with the FBI and legacy Custom. They brought Marvin Hersh case – the former Florida Atlantic University professor who preyed on young children around the world – to my attention.
The case showed me how individuals are capable of harming even the most innocent and vulnerable in our society. Mr. Hersh would travel to the poorest countries in Central and South America and befriend poor families with many children, giving them gifts and money. Once Hersh gained the trust of these families he would then sexually molest the children. He eventually brought a child to the US with a counterfeit birth certificate. The smoking gun in that case was the digital evidence recovered from Hersh’s computer together with the 15-year-old victim’s story.
The sexual molestation of children alters them in ways that we may never know.
In 1998, I helped start the first federally funded “Internet Crimes Against Children” Task Force (ICAC). The Broward Sheriff’s Office (BSO) received one of the eight original federal grants to start the ICAC. That was when I realized how important our roles as Investigators were in combating this heinous crime.
First off, we were initiating a new frontier as law enforcement officers, entering into the dark underbelly of the burgeoning Internet. Remember this was only a few short years after the Internet Browser first debuted in 1993. Secondly, we were in uncharted territory when it came to investigate digital crimes. There were no standard police practices to guide us. Thirdly, there was no case law or precedent dealing with digital evidence. And lastly, we were dealing with digital technology like Bulletin Boards Systems (BBS), Internet Relay Chat (IRC), and News Groups, that most of our supervisors, prosecutors or judges just did not understand. On top of that we were aware that because of the global nature of the Internet we would have to deal with jurisdictional issues both within and outside the United States. This became painfully apparent in the case of Angel Mariscal on which I worked with the United States Postal Investigative Service. Here is an excerpt from the documentation of that case:
COMMITTEE ON ENERGY AND COMMERCE SUBCOMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT AND INVESTIGATIONS UNITED STATES HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES CONCERNING “SEXUAL EXPLOITATION OF CHILDREN OVER THE INTERNET: WHAT PARENTS, KIDS AND CONGRESS NEED TO KNOW ABOUT CHILD PREDATORS”.