By Kelly Roy King
Utah children may be a little more safe while surfing the Internet thanks to the Utah Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
Task force investigators search for sexual predators by going into chat rooms posing as girls, said Tracey Tabet of the Utah Attorney General’s office.
“Men are typically the sexual predators that will engage in conversations with children in hopes of meeting with them,” Tabet said.
Eight investigators representing various agencies around the state have made 15 arrests this year and are currently investigating 57 cases, Tabet said.
“We’re only scratching the surface, and the task force has already a monumental success,” said Jason Perry, state assistant attorney general.
The task force is supplied with investigators from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Salt Lake Police, Utah Department of Public Safety and the Department of Corrections, Tabet said.
The task force’s mission is to identify and prosecute sexual predators on the Internet and educate the community about the dangers that exist for minors on the Web, Tabet said.
Task force members receive training from Innocent Images of the Department Justice and many college and law enforcement agencies across the country, Perry said.
“The investigators are in training almost monthly, so they are on top of technology, ” Perry said.
The task force has achieved more success than expected since its founding in January, Perry said.
“Our original goal was 30 investigations and 10 arrests for an 18-month period,” Perry said. “We’ve exceeded that in just six months.”
The task force is being supported by an 18-month grant from the Department of Justice administered by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, Perry said.
“We’ve been reassured the grant will be continue to be renewed through 2005 if our success continues,” Perry said.
“What is most impressive about the task force is its ability to stop those that use the Internet to prey upon youth,” said Capt. Kevin Youngberg of the Department of Public Safety.
“When pornographic images of children are shared among perpetrators, those children are victimized time and time again,” Youngberg said. “The task force is making a dent in a very serious crime problem.”
For more information on how to protect children from Internet predators, see “A Parents Guide to Internet Safety” at www.fbi.gov/library/pguide/pguide.htm.
To report an incident to the task force call 1-800-AG4-INFO.