By Kelly Rule
Worcester Co. Cracks Down On Child Abuse Through Task Force
WORCESTER CO., Md. – According to "Darkness to Light," a non-profit working to end child sexual abuse, about one in ten children will be sexually abused before their 18th birthday.
In addition, studies show that only 12 percent of child abuse is reported. However, in Worcester County, predators who use the Internet may now be up against a stronger dragnet.
"If there's one person that's affecting the lives of children then it's something that needs to be addressed," says State's Attorney Beau Oglesby, of Worcester County, Maryland. "We need to do everything we can to protect them."
The Worcester County Sheriff's office is partnering with the Internet Against Children Task Force (ICAC). The program is funded by the United States Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice, and Delinquency Prevention to help more than 3,000 agencies across the country. Now in Worcester County, it will support the sheriff's office efforts.
"Nobody's been actively looking for it proactively prior," says Detective Corporal Alex Kagan with the Worcester County Bureau of Investigation. "I think it's a bad problem, and like a lot of things, if it's not identified people just assume that it's not a problem."
The new system reportedly uses a "meta data crawler" to search for potential child pornography being sent or received in the area. Once the evidence is located, officials say a further investigation is required to identify the violators and make criminal arrests.
"A lot of times people who possess these known images may possess images that haven't been catalogued yet," says Dt. Cpl. Kagan.
"Generally you have to react with a situation with law enforcement," says State's Attorney Oglesby. "Someone will call in a complaint and you send out an investigator or a uniformed officer. This is being proactive, this it trying to stop crime before it happens."
Dt. Cpl. Kagan says detectives are undergoing specialized training, and all training and equipment are covered through the government grant. They plan to work with an assigned prosecutor from the state's attorney office on a daily basis, and also continue working closely with the local child advocacy center.
"With these crimes, I think we are going to see a lot of crossover," says Dt. Cpl. Kagan. "Some of the people abusing children may also possess this pornography."
The non-profit child advocacy center, CRICKET, was opened back in 2009. The center provides a team of child protection workers, medical and mental health professionals, and local law enforcement, to help investigate, prosecute, and treat child physical and sexual abuse in a child-friendly environment.
"This task force has kind of branched off from that as well," says Dt. Cpl Kagan.
State's Attorney Oglesby says he hopes the task force makes people think twice before even contemplating violating children through the use of Internet crimes.
"I'm hoping that they see they can't do it in Worcester County, and they'll go to prison."