Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) is a task-force started by the United States Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) in 1998. Multi-jurisdictional with Federal, State and local authorities. Spanning all 50 states as well as partnered countries working in unison to protect children, teens and young adults against on line predators. Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) is a task-force started by the United States Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) in 1998.
Its primary goals are to provide state and local law enforcement agencies the tools to prevent Internet crimes against children by encouraging multi-jurisdictional cooperation as well as educating both law enforcement agents, parents and teachers. The aims of ICAC task forces are to catch distributors of child pornography on the Internet, whether delivered on-line or solicited on-line and distributed through other channels and to catch sexual predators who solicit victims on the Internet through chat rooms, forums and other methods.
Currently all fifty states participate in ICAC. The ICAC Task Force was created to help Federal, State and local law enforcement agencies enhance their investigative responses to offenders who use the Internet, online communication systems, or computer technology to sexually exploit children. The Program is funded by the United States Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The ICAC Program is a national network of 61 coordinated task forces representing over 3,000 federal, state, and local law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies.
These agencies are engaged in proactive investigations, forensic investigations, and criminal prosecutions. Children have always been vulnerable to victimization. Their trusting nature makes them perfect targets for perpetrators—both people they know and those they don’t. As children grow into adolescents, they remain vulnerable to victimization. Youths are often curious and eager to try new things. Many youth struggle with issues of rebellion and independence and seek attention and affection from people outside the home, often by using computers.
Today, an estimated 100 million children are using the Internet. With so many children online, today’s predators can easily find and exploit them. For predators, the Internet is a unique, effective, and more anonymous way to seek out and groom children for criminal purposes such as producing and distributing child pornography, contacting and stalking children for the purpose of engaging in sexual acts, and exploiting children for sexual tourism for personal and commercial purposes.
The nature of Internet crimes presents complex new challenges for law enforcement agencies and victim service providers with regard to investigating crimes, collecting evidence, identifying and apprehending offenders, as well as assisting young victims and their families. For example, victims and perpetrators are often separated geographically, which may hamper investigation efforts. Also, victims are often ashamed and reluctant to come forward, which makes identifying offenders difficult.
These challenges are being addressed by federal and local law enforcement agencies, but there is still much to learn about preventing, identifying, and investigating Internet-based crimes against children. Traditionally, both interfamily offenders and strangers have found that young children and teenagers are perfect targets for criminal acts because they are often trusting, naive, curious, adventuresome, and eager for attention and affection. However, the most attractive factor to predators is that children and teenagers historically have not been viewed as credible witnesses.
Today, the danger to children is even greater because the Internet provides predators anonymity. Whether the victimization occurs in person or over the Internet, the process is the same—the perpetrator uses information to target a child victim. For example, the predator may initiate an online friendship with a young person, sharing hobbies and interests. This may lead to the exchange of gifts and pictures. Just like the traditional predator that targets children in person, the online predator usually is willing to spend considerable time befriending and grooming a child.
The predator wants to build the child’s trust, which will allow the predator to get what he or she ultimately wants from the child. Although no family is immune to the possibility that their child may be exploited and harassed on the Internet, a few factors make some children more vulnerable than others. Older children tend to be at greater risk because they often use the computer unsupervised and are more likely to engage in online discussions of a personal nature. Some victims become unsuspecting participants as they actively participate in chat rooms, trade e-mail messages, and send pictures online.
Troubled or rebellious teens who are seeking liberation from parental authority can be susceptible to Internet predators. The risk of victimization is greater for emotionally vulnerable youth who may be dealing with issues of sexual identity. These young people may be willing to engage in conversation that appears innocent and harmless, but unfortunately some internet interactions that initially appear innocent can gradually lead to sexually explicit conduct. Many children and teenagers can and do become victims of Internet crimes.
Predators contact teenagers and children over the Internet and victimize them by: ?Enticing them through online contact for the purpose of engaging them in sexual acts. ?Using the Internet for the production, manufacture, and distribution of child pornography. ?Using the Internet to expose youth to child pornography and encourage them to exchange pornography. ?Enticing and exploiting children for the purpose of sexual tourism (travel with the intent to engage in sexual behavior) for commercial gain and/or personal gratification. Unique Characteristics of Cybercrimes
Several characteristics distinguish Internet crimes from other crimes committed against children: Physical contact between the child and the perpetrator does not need to occur for a child to become a victim or for a crime to be committed. Innocent pictures or images of children can be digitally transformed into pornographic material and distributed across the Internet without the victims’ knowledge. The Internet provides a source for repeated, long-term victimization of a child that can last for years, often without the victim’s knowledge.
Once a child’s picture is displayed on the Internet, it can remain there forever. Images can stay on the Internet indefinitely without damage to the quality of the image. These crimes transcend jurisdictional boundaries, often involving multiple victims from different communities, states, and countries. The geographic location of a child is not a primary concern for perpetrators who target victims over the Internet. Often, perpetrators travel hundreds of miles to different states and countries to engage in sexual acts with children they met over the Internet.
Many of these cases involve local, state, federal, and international law enforcement entities in multiple jurisdictions. Many victims of Internet crimes do not disclose their victimization or even realize that they have been victims of a crime. Whereas children who experience physical or sexual abuse may disclose the abuse to a friend, teacher, or parent, many victims of Internet crimes remain anonymous until pictures or images are discovered by law enforcement during an investigation. The presumed anonymity of Internet activities often provides a false sense of security and secrecy for both the perpetrator and the victim.
A few statistic supplied by Crimes Against Children Research Center •75% of children are willing to share personal information online about themselves and their family in exchange for goods and services. •Only approximately 25% of children who encountered a sexual approach or solicitation told a parent or adult. •One in 33 youth received an aggressive sexual solicitation in the past year. This means a predator asked a young person to meet somewhere, called a young person on the phone, and/or sent the young person correspondence, money, or gifts through the U. S. Postal Service. •77% of the targets for online predators were age 14 or older.
Another 22% were users ages 10 to 13. INTERNET TIPS FOR TEENS AND YOUNG ADULTS (provided by: Crimes against Children Research Center) 1) Be smart about what you post on the Web and what you say to others. The Web is a lot more public and permanent than it seems. 2) Provocative and sexy names and pictures can draw attention from people you don’t want in your life . 3) Sexy pictures can get you into trouble with the law. If you are underage, they may be considered child pornography, a serious crime. 4) Be careful what you download or look at, even for a laugh. Some of the images on the Internet are extreme, and you can’t “unsee” something. ) Going to sex chat rooms and other sex sites may connect you with people who can harass you in ways you don’t anticipate. 6) Free downloads and file-sharing can put pornography on your computer that you may not want and can be hard to get rid of . Any pornography that shows children or teens under 18 is illegal child pornography and can get you in big trouble. 7) Adults who talk to you about sex online are committing a crime. So are adults who meet underage teens for sex. Some teens think it might be fun, harmless or romantic, but it means serious trouble for everyone.
It’s best to report it. 8) Don’t play along with people on the Web who are acting badly, taking risks and being weird. Even if you think it’s harmless and feel like you can handle it, it only encourages them and may endanger other young people. 9) Report it when other people are acting weird and inappropriately or harassing you or others. It’s less trouble just to log off, but these people may be dangerous. Save the communication. Contact the site management, your service provider, the CyberTipline or even the police. 10) Don’t let friends influence your better judgment.
If you are surfing with other kids, don’t let them pressure you to do things you ordinarily wouldn’t. 11) Be careful if you ever go to meet someone you have gotten to know through the Internet. You may think you know them well, but they may fool you. Go with a friend. Tell your parents. Meet in a public place. Make sure your have your cell phone and an exit plan. 12) Don’t harass others. People may retaliate in ways you don’t expect. 13) You can overestimate your ability to handle things. It may feel like you are careful, savvy, aware of dangers, and able to manage the risks you take, but there are always unknowns. Don’t risk disasters.