On Feb. 28 Idaho lawmakers were presented a familiar scenario: a growing crisis in the wake of dwindling resources. In a week when legislators continued to grapple with budgets for Medicaid and K-12 public education, members of the Senate Judiciary and Rules Committee sat slack-jawed as Detective Tim Brady, representing the Fraternal Order of Police, briefed them on Internet crimes against children.
"In 2003, it's estimated that there were 3,600 images of child pornography. Only two years later, there were 6.5 million," said Brady, estimating 60,000 new images hit the web every month.
Committee members sat in uncomfortable silence, some slowly shook their heads. Some rested their heads in their hands. Brady's message was clear: child pornography is a rapidly growing problem with scant resources to stem the tide. Brady told lawmakers that he and his colleagues would soon be on the Capitol's doorstep in an effort to make changes to Idaho code.
"Current laws on enticement don't include scenarios where children are enticed via text," said Brady. "The laws don't even refer to enticement via cell phone."
Brady also told lawmakers that he'll be coming to them in 2012 for more money.
"The state of Idaho has no one solely dedicated to investigating Internet crimes against children," said Brady. "Training is expensive. So is technology. Our equipment is constantly outdated and predators are constantly outpacing us."
The Idaho Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, a statewide coalition of 37 local, state and federal law enforcement entities, estimates that 20 percent of pornography involves children with 55 percent manufactured and sold domestically. Nationally, child pornography is estimated to generate $3 billion in annual sales.
"If what I'm telling you is disturbing, prepare yourself," Brady warned legislators. "Our records indicate that 39 percent of all child pornography involves 3 to 5 year olds. Worse yet, 19 percent involves infants and toddlers under the age of 3."
Brady needs help. He estimated that he and his colleagues probably only arrest and prosecute about 1 percent of child pornographers that they fear are operating in Idaho. But more prosecution will require more detective work and that will require more money.
"There's no reason that these people who purvey in porn shouldn't be paying for what they've done," said Brady. "And I mean literally paying. Of course these people need to go to prison, but why can't we insist on strong restitution fines? They should pay for all of the overtime and technology needed to catch them. And if you allow us to assess the fines, the money should go into a dedicated fund to combat Internet crimes against children."
Brady said he has to scour the web and social media sites to catch child pornographers. It's estimated that more than 100,000 websites traffic child pornography. Brady said he'll be back before the committee this time next year with more statistics and an armful of recommendations for better funding and tougher laws.