Police cracking down on child porn- Special Victim's Unit Takes On Child Porn

Tucked in a corner of the Independence, MO police headquarters, an office hums with activity. Computers are on, evidence bags with DVD's, CD-ROM's, and computer hardware line the desks and shelves. It's not your normal office of detectives. It's the reorganized Special Victim's Unit. And it's working.

John Holt, edited by Jason Vaughn 
May 12, 2009
Source: Fox 4 WDAF-TV Web site 

INDEPENDENCE, MO - Tucked in a corner of the Independence, MO police headquarters, an office hums with activity. Computers are on, evidence bags with DVD's, CD-ROM's, and computer hardware line the desks and shelves. It's not your normal office of detectives. 

It's the reorganized Special Victim's Unit. And it's working. 

"We have capabilities for just about anything we would need to do in this room," says Sgt. Kevin Freeman who heads up the unit of six detectives. 

Three focus on human trafficking and cybercrimes aimed at children. Three more focus on sex offenses, such as child abuse and molestation. 

Their focus now: child pornography. 

The unit is funded by a federal grant, with some city funding, and it's designed to be a rapid response unit. 

"If somebody walks through the door now saying we have a child being hurt at this location, we could leave right now to execute a search warrant." 

The Independence experience is believed to be the first of its kind for a city department, though other agencies have retooled to fight cybercrimes aimed at children. That includes the Western Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force, and the federal "Project Safe Childhood." 

Many of the cases wind up being further investigated by the Heart of America Regional Computer Forensics Lab, located in the Northland. The lab is funded by the FBI, but local agencies provide the analysts, including Independence. 

Overland Park police chief John Douglas co-chairs the national board advising the 14 regional labs, including the Kansas City lab. 

"We are extremely lucky to have this facility," Chief Douglas says. 

When it opened in 2003, it had 130 cases to investigate. Last year it had 643, with about half of them child porn cases. 

The lab uses state of the art techniques to study confiscated computers, cameras, drives, or other digital technology for evidence of a crime. 

Independence has been so active, that at one time Sgt. Freeman says, it presented the most cases to the lab for review. It also provides two analysts. 

Sgt. Freeman says the Independence SVU is working well, but there is much to be done. It will reapply for a federal grant later this year. 

"The harm to society is that's our future. That's our future and we don't want our future growing up thinking this is okay." 

He's speaking of the kids. Those special victims his unit, and others like it, are working daily to save. 

Source: Fox 4 WDAF-TV Web site (includes Video)