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Internet Crimes Against Children initiative started in Phillips County PDF Print E-mail
Written by Chris Lee   

Internet crimes against children are popping up all around the United States. It’s no different right here in Holyoke.

The office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention first began thinking of ways to help fight Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) and decided to funnel money down to the states. Colorado picked it up and Colorado Springs became the head contact agency for the state, according to Phillips County sheriff’s deputy Barry Winckler.

Through grants, the 13th Judicial District decided to take the program on as well. From there, Eastern Plains Internet Crimes Against Children (EPICAC) was born.

Phillips County Sheriff Rob Urbach sits on the board of EPICAC. Winckler said a lot of agencies within the district are diving in and becoming a part of the program.

Urbach appointed Winckler the investigator for both Phillips and Sedgwick counties since the two counties work well together with many programs.

“It’s a big problem, and growing,” Winckler said.

In September, after three days of Peer-to-Peer training on the program used to monitor internet traffic, Winckler was set to begin.

He mentioned they were able to search while at training and computer addresses in the Holyoke area popped up. One of the searches was a case that had already begun. That individual had been followed by a federal agency.

“We know it’s here,” Winckler said.

He said there are over 150,000 known articles of child pornography. They are listed by an SHA (Secure Hash Algorithm) value. The program searches all computers that have file sharing programs and looks for specific SHA values.

If Winckler finds a local computer, he can go on and see what kind of child pornography the person has. Sheriff Urbach said everything is completely legal with the program. “A lot of people say it’s the government keeping an eye on you, but it’s legal, it’s out there,” Urbach said.

“They downloaded a program to share, so they are obliging,” Winckler added.

Depending on the amount of child pornography, the department will act in different ways.

Those being monitored who are excessively online and actively sharing, the department would act quickly. “It’s not just that they have the porn,” Winckler said.

“Many times if they’ve got it on there, they are actively recruiting and making their own stuff so they can share it with others too. Usually when you’ve got one of these, you’re going to have a victim around.”

“This isn’t like a drug case fortunately, where it’s going to take years to bust a person,” Urbach said. “This could happen in a week, where a drug case could take two years.”

Child pornography refers to images or films (also known as child abuse images) and in some cases writings depicting sexually explicit activities involving a child.

Winckler will work in cooperation with Phillips and Sedgwick counties, Holyoke Police Department and Haxtun Police Department.

He will locate individual computers in the area and be able to physically pull (download) the child pornography off, get the information, such as IP (Internet Provider) address, put together a search warrant and present the case to the necessary law enforcement agency.

In order to get the program started, internet access needed to be set up that wasn’t behind a firewall or router. PC Telcom helped set the department up with the appropriate connection.

“The more I can get off their computer while they’re online, the better,” Winckler said. He noted the faster internet connection will greatly help this aspect of the program.

Twenty photos or one video is equal to a felony, so it is more feasible to go after videos, Winckler said.

He is able to search different increments of time and search for computers that have known child pornography that also have file sharing programs.

He is also able to set the program to crawl while he is away from the computer. Since beginning Dec. 20, Winckler has already submitted 78,000 records to the database. There are around 450 million records in the database, he said.

Continual training will be necessary as things progress into the future, according to Winckler. He hopes to eventually be trained in the live chats with the actual predators.

Both Urbach and Winckler said they are excited about the new program. “It’s really neat that all the agencies are working so well together on this,” Winckler said. “I think everybody sees it’s a big need.”

For more information on ICAC visit http://www.coloradoicac.com or contact Winckler at 854-3644.