A rabbi, a registered nurse and a Boy Scout troop leader were among the people arrested recently in New York City on charges of swapping child pornography. The case is being called by federal officials one of the largest-ever roundups in the metro area.
The arrests came as the result of an extensive investigation by federal authorities that resulted in 600 desktop and laptop computers being seized along with tablets and smartphones. At a recent press conference announcing the arrests, law enforcement agents displayed 22 hard drives that had also been seized. Mounted on the wall was a large map showing the entire state of New York and portions of New Jersey. Doting the map were pins showing where each of the suspects lived.
Child pornography has grown with the internet. Defined as pornography that involves a child, there is no legal distinction between simulated child pornography or pornography made with the direct involvement of the child.
Child pornography comes in different forms and in different media. Writings, magazines, photos, sculpture, cartoons and more are all part of the package. Laws regarding child pornography include sexual images involving minors and computer-generated graphics that appear to include and involve minors.
Producers of child porn attempt to evade prosecution by distribution of their material across national borders. The recent arrests show how effective law enforcement can be when international agencies work cooperate.
In addition to the recent arrests in New York City, other investigations include Operation Cathedral that resulted in numerous multi-national arrests and uncovered over 700,000 images with 1,200 unique and identifiable faces.
According to Interpol 94 of 187 member countries have laws specifically address child pornography. Of the 94, 58 have criminalized position of child porn even if a person did not intend to distribute. In all Western countries, both distribution and possession are now criminal offenses.
Organized crime is heavily involved in the production and distribution of child porn. In 2013, an international police investigation found a German based child porn ring involving over 26,000 suspects who traded illegal images in 166 countries. Another case recently worked by US and international law enforcement authorities charged 27 people in nine states and three countries with involvement in a child pornography ring that US authorities described as one of the worst they had uncovered.
The assistant secretary for Immigration and Customs Enforcement added that the case reflected larger trends that are becoming more common in child pornography rings.
One of the trends is the increasing availability of “home grown” pornographic images that are made by the predators themselves. The images, including live, streaming video, are then shared through direct, peer-to-peer sharing networks and are traded like people trade collectibles.
As the US government increases the ability to locate, arrest and prosecute adults involved with the manufacture and distribution of child porn, the pornographers themselves are using more sophisticated security on their computers and networks.One US federal agent, who wished to remain anonymous said, “It’s a game of cat-and-mouse, and sometimes the mouse wins.”