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More Internet Predators Challenging Agents

UPDATED: Friday, March 20, 2009
REPORTER: Chris Woodard

They are some of the most awful criminals to parents and kids, internet predators, and now the special agents charged with getting them off the streets say they can't keep up.

From Facebook to MySpace and cell phones to chat rooms the ways to reach others these days are just about endless.

It's connecting some with appalling consequences.

Special Agent Jenniffer Price says, "The danger is that there are children out there that we can't save because there's not enough of us to go around."

Price is the only special agent at Madison's Department of Justice office who works full time on internet crimes against children.

She says, "It's difficult to see what we have to see on a daily basis, it's hard to see a child being abused."

Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen says most parents have no idea how bad the problem of sexual predators really is.

Price says the cases she is dealing with have at least doubled in the last year.

As the ways to communicate online seem to multiply so do the predators. Agents are struggling to keep up with the changes in technology but say until they get help children will suffer.

Price says, "There needs to be more officers on the street working these kind of cases full time for us to really make a difference. "

The agents analyze hard drives, catalog tips, write search warrants and criminal complaints, break down doors and interview children as young as 3.

The attorney General is asking for money to hire at least 5 more.

Price says, "It's hard. It's hard because every time that I make an arrest I know that there's 10 more people that I could be arresting in that same position."

The Madison Police Department is doing their part to help keep parents informed.

They had a huge response at their first program aimed at helping parents know what to look for a few days ago and say all the information presented will be available on their website beginning April first.

They're planning another community meeting for the west side sometime in April.

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MADISON, Wis. (AP) -- State Justice Department agents working on Internet crimes against children say they can't keep up with the proliferating crime.

The task force's five full-time agents and six full-time computer analysts are swamped, mentally and physically.

They analyze hard drives, catalog tips, write search warrant affidavits and criminal complaints, break down doors, and interview children as young as 3.

Despite the publicity from shows like NBC's "To Catch a Predator," the bad guys haven't gone away. They've quietly multiplied. Trading child porn online and grooming underage targets in chat rooms has exploded nationwide.

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen says the general population has no idea how bad the problem really is. Van Hollen has recruited local police departments and asked for more state money to help the Internet Crimes Against Children unit.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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