Sixteen men have been charged with a variety of crimes including child pornography, child enticement, attempted sexual assault of a child and trafficking a child, after a law enforcement task force raid last week. “Operation New Hope” was the weeklong campaign by the Department of Justice Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, along with 30 law enforcement agencies and advocacy groups, which made the arrests. A local lawmaker attributes the success of this endeavor to Alicia’s Law in Wisconsin.
Alicia’s Law, named after Alicia Kozakiewicz, added one million dollars in funding to the DOJ task force and streamlined the administrative subpoena process. This allows investigators to arrest predators and rescue children more quickly than in the past. Alicia herself was a victim of sexual exploitation as a child. In 2002, when she was 13, she was abducted outside her parent’s house and imprisoned in a basement by a man she had met online. She was chained, tortured and raped. To add insult to injury, all of this was caught on camera and shared through the Internet by the perpetrator. Luckily for her, the police had the technical know-how to track the online correspondence she had had with her kidnapper prior to her abduction. She was rescued four days after being taken. Since then, Alicia has become an advocate for children and was crucial in getting Alicia’s law passed in 12 states where it provides funding for task forces specifically designed to investigate and persecute Internet crimes against children.
Despite the huge support of Alicia’s Law, there are opponents. Critics fear that the legislation bypasses judicial oversight to give law enforcement an extraordinarily powerful search and seizure tool. The potentially far-reaching nature of the power that this legislation offers is drawing concerns: some say it is unconstitutional, claim it’s unnecessary and argue that it overextends the government’s ability to obtain information on people who, at that moment, are still presumed innocent by law.
The exact number of children who are victims of online child sexual exploitation is unknown, however the number of webpages containing child sexual abuse materials increased by 147% from 2012 to 2014. Children 10 years or younger were portrayed in 80% of these materials. Prior to the Internet, pedophiles felt isolated and alone, but now they are a part of a global community. Through the Internet, they can interact, share fantasies, techniques and even traffic children. They do all this with virtual anonymity.
Less than two percent of the known child exploitation cases are investigated. State law enforcement doesn’t have the funding or the technical expertise to navigate the Internet to find and prosecute crimes against children. In a day and age where crime is quickly moving off the streets and onto the webpage, funding provided by this law would allow law enforcement to gain the training they need as well as pay for the man-hours necessary to catch and prosecute these individuals. Alicia’s law gives law enforcement and prosecutors the tools necessary to catch child sexual predators more quickly.
(March 18, 2016). New digital technologies produce unprecedented levels of child abuse material online. United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner. Retrieved from http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/Childsexualexploitationonlineontherise.aspx
Alicia’s Law. The National Association to Protect Children and PROTECT. Retrieved from https://www.protect.org/articles/alicias-law
Brines, J. (May 31, 2017). Alicia’s Law leads to sex offender roundup. The Journal Times. Retrieved from http://journaltimes.com/news/local/crime-and-courts/alicia-s-law-leads-to-sex-offender-roundup/article_3ba0e488-5c28-55cd-ae74-ae2167c0aaf6.html
Collins, D. (March 10, 2016). Alicia’s Law would equip police to fight online child sex offenders. WBALTV. Retrieved from http://www.wbaltv.com/article/alicia-s-law-would-equip-police-to-fight-online-child-sex-offenders/7099454
Kittle, M. D. (January 19, 2016). ‘Alicia’s Law’ raises serious constitutional concerns. WisconsinWatchdog.org. Retrieved from http://watchdog.org/254433/constitutional-law-online/