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Posted February 23, 2012 | comments 3 Comments

Law enforcement: Child sex abuse investigators needed

Gilbert bill to direct all Alicia's Law revenue to Internet Crimes Against Children; Senate version still intact

By Sally Voth -- svoth@nvdaily.com

Area law enforcement officers agree with child-advocacy groups that more investigators are needed to fight the scourge of sexual predators who target children.

Lobbying group PROTECT and the National Association to Protect Children are turning up the heat on Del. Beverly Sherwood, R-Winchester, and Gov. Bob McDonnell as part of the groups' efforts to combat putting a funding cap on revenue generated from court fees that finance Internet Crimes Against Children task forces.

Passed by the General Assembly in 2010, Alicia's Law adds $10 fees to court costs for each felony and misdemeanor count of which a defendant is convicted.

Named after Alicia Kozakiewicz, a 13-year-old Pittsburgh girl kidnapped, raped and tortured by a Virginia man she met online, Alicia's Law funds officers on the task forces and grant programs to pay for dedicated ICAC positions within departments, according to Camille Cooper, director of legislative affairs for PROTECT.

Kozakiewicz survived her ordeal 10 years ago, and speaks about her experiences and Internet dangers to young people and legislators.

The ICAC task forces investigate cases such as adults trying to meet up with underage children they've met online and adults creating and/or dealing in child pornography.

When the law was passed in Virginia, legislators expected the fees to generate $1.8 million each year, but they've actually raised $650,000 above that annually, according to a news release from the National Association to Protect Children.

Del. Todd Gilbert, R-Woodstock, said the budget proposed by McDonnell would cap the funding at $1.8 million, with the remainder going to the state's general fund by default.
A budget amendment Gilbert introduced that would have all the money go to the task force funding failed in the House.

However, the Senate has all the money going to the intent of Alicia's Law in its proposed budget, Gilbert said.

On Monday, Sherwood praised the work done by PROTECT, but said Alicia's Law programs weren't receiving any cuts to their original anticipated revenue, while other projects were getting cut.

McDonnell would be receptive to changing how Alicia's Law funding is handled if legislators wish, his deputy communications director said via email Monday.

PROTECT and NAPC members and their supporters -- including some parents of children murdered in high-profile cases -- have been posting comments on Sherwood's Facebook page, urging her to fight the cap.

"Imagine you are a 2 year old who is being repeatedly raped and photographed by a family member," Mika Moulton's post says. "The front line Heroes of the ICAC are saving lives all across Virginia. Keep the funding in place!"

Frederick County Sheriff's investigator James Galbreath's job is dedicated solely to investigating the sexual exploitation of minors and is funded by Alicia's Law. Another investigator devotes part of his time to the ICAC.

"Anyone that tells you that there's not a need for more investigators in the field of child exploitation regarding online activities, doesn't have a clue what's going on," Galbreath said. "I think if the intent of the bill was to add additional fines and fees with the intent of improving the investigation of sexual exploitation of minors, then that's what the intent is.

"We're fortunate [in Frederick County]. I believe we're at the point where we could use another person, but we also realize that there's agencies out there that don't even have one, or that don't even have a part-time person."

Galbreath said task force agents will travel to investigate cases if necessary.
He stressed that Sherwood and McDonnell, in addition to Gilbert, have been very supportive of ICACs' work.

"We want to be able to identify [victims]," Galbreath said. "We want to be able to rescue them. We want to be able to provide them services."

Technology has made it easier for pedophiles to share pornography and to get access to children, Galbreath said.

In Shenandoah County, Sheriff Timothy C. Carter said he'd like to have funding for an ICAC position.

"Staffing is the issue," he said. "We would love to have the opportunity to have revenue to do that."

There is an investigator who is trained to investigate Internet predation, but he also has duties in other areas, Carter said. He, too, said the Internet and cell phones have made it easier to exploit children and teens.

"It's not as difficult as it was before to make those things happen," Carter said. "All the more reason the funding should be there for officers to be involved and to investigate those crimes and put adequate resources to protect those vulnerable people. You're talking about children here."

3 Comments | Leave a comment

    The Internet knows no geographical borders. Pedophiles in Arizona can chat with children in Maine... or Virginia. What makes sense is using 100% of Alicia's Law revenue to fund one state operated task force patrolling the Internet for sexual predators.

    Virginia has something like 130 counties and maybe 50 cities. Are each one of these police jurisdictions (like Shenandoah County) trying to grab funds from Alicia's Law revenue to expand their local departments? Does this make sense to you?

    How many Internet sexual predators are captured in Virginia each year? 1....10....100? Which would better use limited financial resources... 180 departments scattered around the state vying for a piece of the pie or one central office covering the entire state? Economies of scale seem to dictate the answer.

    Instead of adding $10 to the court cost to hire more investigators.

    Why don't they have the State Police do their jobs instead of just running radar and tearing apart someones car in a vehicle stop?

    Numerous times I have seen 3 or 4 state police parked in the same cross overs on I81 for the so called "drug task force". Why not put them to real use and either eliminate the positions and hire investigators or train these police to do the real job that needs to be done.

    For one: The ICAC group is statewide. When you sign on with ICAC you also sign on with a statewide task force (ICAC) which is what you're talking about doing. Which is better, 180 officers in one central location of the state, or 180 officers dispersed throughout the state? It's the same cost, but a better level of response and resource for the smaller agencies who can't afford to support that type of investigation.

    Second: Patrol and Investigations are two separate monsters. So lets take all the Troopers off the road because you don't like it and put them all in investigations. Then we could do whatever we wanted on the interstate. Fatality crash? Sorry family, we don't do traffic.


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