Louisiana ICAC Task Force Remains Aggressive in the Hunt for Child Predators
June is National Internet Safety Month, and Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force affiliates have joined forces in the latest effort to keep Louisiana’s children safe as they as they embark on summer break. Attorney General Buddy Caldwell today announced the arrest of 19 individuals as a result of Operation Broken Heart, a coordinated law enforcement effort aimed at apprehending those offenders who engage in child sexual exploitation.
Attorney General Caldwell says, “June is Internet Safety Month, and the top priority of our Internet Crimes Against Children task force is to make sure kids across Louisiana are safe as they suddenly find themselves with more free time and less supervision during the summer months away from school.”
Led by the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office, Louisiana ICAC task force affiliates comprised of local, state and federal officials participated in this month-long undercover initiative concentrating on offenders who engage in the possession, production or distribution of child pornography, commercial and online solicitation of children for sexual purposes and sex tourism.
While most of the 19 arrests involved the possession or distribution of child pornography, other arrests included charges related to the production of pornography involving juveniles, indecent behavior with a juvenile, computer-aided solicitation of a minor, unlawful use or access to social media, simple rape and attempted simple kidnapping.
“The results of this operation illustrate that kids don’t have to venture out of their backyard any longer to encounter danger, it can find them right in their own home,” asserts Caldwell. “Our affiliates are spread across the state with a common purpose—to keep our kids safe.”
The statewide coordinated effort included members from the Louisiana Attorney General’s Cyber Crime and Fugitive Apprehension Units, Homeland Security Investigations, Federal Bureau of Investigations, Louisiana State Police, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, United States Border Patrol, Bossier Marshal’s Office, United States Postal Inspection Service, Louisiana Probation and Parole, Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office, Kenner Police Department, New Orleans Police Department, St. Landry Parish Sheriff’s Office, East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff’s Office, St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office, St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office, Livingston Parish Sheriff’s Office, Ascension Parish Sheriff’s Office, Ouachita Parish Sheriff’s Office, Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office, Mandeville Police Department, Gretna Police Department, Orleans Parish District Attorney’s Office, Naval Criminal Investigation Service, and the U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations.
“Working with our local, state and federal partners is essential in the fight against the exploitation of children for sexual purposes. Without the help and cooperation of these agencies, the Louisiana ICAC Task Force would not have been able achieve the enormous level of success it’s accomplished since its inception, nearly 15 years ago,” states Caldwell.
In January of 2001, The Louisiana Attorney General’s Office was designated as the Internet Crimes Against Children’s regional task force liaison and is the recipient of a federal ICAC grant award. As a result, the attorney general’s Cyber Crime Unit (CCU) was formed. Today, the attorney general’s CCU consists of 18 full-time employees that work tirelessly to protect children from online predators. In 2013, the CCU contributed 87 arrests, secured 62 successful prosecutions and searched over 333 terabytes (TB) of computer data.
The Louisiana Attorney General’s Office has supported many proactive law enforcement agencies with thousands of hours of technical assistance and hundreds of thousands of dollars in financial aid over the years to help strengthen the Louisiana ICAC Task Force’s proficiency in undercover investigations, forensic examinations, and prosecution of those that seek to abuse the children of Louisiana. Through vigorous training and partnership, the attorney general’s office has grown the Louisiana ICAC task force to include 76 law-enforcement agencies across the state. Since 2006, the Louisiana ICAC Task Force has made 572 arrests, provided 1,184 Internet safety presentations to local communities, reached out to over 146,000 Louisiana residents, completed 4,412 computer forensic examinations and has over 500 successful prosecutions throughout Louisiana.
“The attorney general’s office and its ICAC affiliates are using all available resources to protect Louisiana’s children and lock up those individuals who are a danger to our communities,” says Caldwell. “But parents play a major role in policing the internet in their homes and making sure kids are using the web responsibly. Parents are absolutely vital to our efforts.” he explains.
According to Caldwell, Internet access offers incredible opportunities for learning and entertainment, but parents need to know that there are some dark and dangerous off-ramps, especially for children, when surfing the web. Caldwell says without proper supervision, children can easily be exposed to inappropriate material and messages, be exploited by sexual predators and even become victims to unscrupulous con artists. Parents should establish ground-rules for accessing the Internet. Technical capabilities or lack of time may limit a parent’s involvement, but web surfing can be shaped into a family activity by keeping the following tips in mind:
• Place the computer in a central area of the house such as the family room, den or kitchen.
• Establish specific times when access to the Internet is permitted and keep that schedule.
• Limit the length of access time. This will encourage your child to go directly to the information required, rather than aimlessly wander or surf the Internet.
• Explain to your children that many sites on the Internet are not appropriate for children or young adults, and they are expected to stay away from them.
• Make it clear to your child that you are aware that there is inappropriate material on the Internet, and that looking at such material is forbidden.
• Explain that if a website’s address has adult language in it, the site is not to be visited.
• If the child has access to a credit card, instruct the child never to give it out over the Internet.
• Instruct your child to talk to you if he or she ever finds anything on the Internet that makes them feel uncomfortable.
• Encourage communication with your children. Ask about their Internet experiences and what they have learned.
To report suspected cases of Internet crime, call the attorney general’s Cyber Crime Unit at 1-800-256-4506.