Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force works with local law enforcement to solve crime

Internet Crimes Against Children uses a statewide partnership to make arrests
Published: Aug. 23, 2022 at 7:02 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - At least once a month. That’s how often the Marathon County Sheriff’s Office arrests someone for sharing child porn images or video. It’s a result in a tip from the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Those arrests and eventual charges happen because of statewide partnerships to police cyberspace.

The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) is helping local departments deal with the challenges of catching those who view child sexual abuse images. Policing cyberspace is challenging for law enforcement because few cases start and end in the same jurisdiction.

“The case is really spread out but the victim is across the country or vice versa,” said Captain Jeffrey Stefonek.

ICAC is a national organization that works with regional and local partners. There are 310 affiliates in Wisconsin and six of them are in Marathon County, including the Marathon County Sheriff’s Office. Organizations involved in ICAC collaborate and solve online crimes against kids.

“If there are known files that contain child pornography or anything else illegal, NCMEC keeps a database,” said Captain Stefonek.

The ‘National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’ often gets those files from affiliate ICAC members from across the United States.

“There’s a feedback loop, if we have a case here in Marathon County where somebody is arrested for child pornography and they are prosecuted, we send everything associated with that case to NCMEC,” said Captain Stefonek.

Captain Stefonek described the codes in NCMEC’s database as a fingerprint. It’s a unique digital identifier that a computer program can scan for.

Once they scan the database they use IP address or account holder information from social media to track where the file is coming from and being shared.

“If those files are shared anywhere else on the internet and compared against the NCMEC database they will pop up and there could be new charges for anyone else that possesses those illegal files,” said Captain Stefonek.

That way it doesn’t continue to be spread.

“The victim in our county is being re-victimized every time those are shared or viewed,” said Captain Stefonek.

If the crime didn’t happen in their jurisdiction, Marathon County can forward it to another ICAC affiliate, wherever they are across the united states, so they can investigate and potentially take legal action.

Captain Stefonek says while ICAC helps many victims in our community, it’s often a lengthy process because the sheriff’s office has to have a court order to access information like the IP address.