Tracking child predators online is such a priority because investigators say as many as 85 percent of them will take their criminal activity offline and sexually abuse young children.
A Florida-based organization says it has developed the world’s only technology that tracks child predators online, in real time.
The Child Rescue Coalition’s showed WUSA9 and a panel of viewers how its technology tracks online predators in real time.
“I want to cry,” said Georgine DeBord. “These are children being abused. Being exploited. Being harmed for life.”
“It’s just, it’s hard to really…” said panelist Edward Foskey.
Stacey McGuirk Rodriguez said, “This made me feel really helpless.”
Each red dot on a world map showed us in real-time just how many child predators are online viewing or sharing explicit images or videos depicting the sexual abuse of children under the age of 12.
“It’s hard to take,” said Foskey. “When I think of my kids, my nieces, my nephews, my God kids and any of them can be vulnerable.”
“It’s like that bone wrenching sadness when you see something like this," said Syed.
Child Rescue Coalition President William Wiltse said “One dot doesn’t often represent only one computer.”
Wiltse showed us how when he clicks on one dot, it actually represents many more.
“They’re looking at files with graphic labels like 2-year-old toddler Sara and PTHC Luna, 4 years old,” said Wiltse.
PTHC is an acronym for pre-teen hardcore.
“When I think of child pornography, I did think they were from 9-10 and older. I never imagined babies. Two year olds and four year olds,” said Sohaer Rizvi Syed.
Here’s how the technology works: It isolates IP addresses with illegal content and posts them to this dashboard. The general location of the computer is known, so trained law enforcement officers can access those records and initiate a case.
A criminal subpoena is issued to the Internet service provider, to pinpoint where the alleged child predator is located. That can ultimately lead to an arrest and conviction.
“It’s frightening. The amount of the dots,” said DeBord.
WUSA9 found some chilling examples in our area: In just the last year, an IP address in Gaithersburg has downloaded or shared more than 2,700 files. An IP address in Reston has downloaded more than a 1,000 files.
Wiltse said some of the files are fantasy stories that will describe sexual encounters between children and adults.
He says the file names give investigators a sense of a predator’s age and gender preferences. CRC’s technology can even recover deleted files.
“I have a 9-year-old and a 5-year-old and so it makes me terrified. Because I know it can happen to just anybody,” Syed said.
“It’s heartbreaking. This is not how our children should be treated,” said DeBord.
Investigators also showed up step-by-step manuals on how to lure a child, have sex with them and get away with it.
“I can’t imagine what kind of person would himself a human being to produce this, let alone read it, or distribute it,” said Foskey
Rodriguez said she felt pure sadness when seeing the manual.
“That’s just so wrong on so many levels that you cannot comprehend. Even a depraved and perverted person could go that low,” said Syed.
So far, this technology has led to more than 9,000 arrests worldwide and the rescues of more than 2,000 children.
CRC says law enforcement agencies in all 50 states and 64 countries are using this technology to track child predators. It offers the program free of charge to any officer willing to be trained.
If you’d like to learn more about the Child Rescue Coalition and how you can get law enforcement in your area trained on it, click here.