Attorney General Beau Biden has applauded the Delaware Child Predator Task Force for securing its 150th conviction.
“I’m incredibly proud that our Child Predator Task Force has convicted 150 criminals intent on harming our children,” Biden said. “One of the reasons I sought this office was to establish a unit that works full-time to identify, track down, and prosecute predators who troll the internet and use technology to target and exploit kids. Thanks to the innovative use of the latest technology to stay one step ahead of offenders, our collaborative partnerships with law police agencies across our state and nation, and the proactive investigations we initiate we have made a real difference in keeping our kids safer. Our work to take predators off the streets never ends.”
Biden announced that since 2007 the task force has opened more than 800 investigations, executed 297 search warrants and secured 235 arrests. In February it secured its 150th conviction. On average, task force detectives execute one search warrant each week in connection with investigations into the online sexual exploitation of children. Charges commonly filed against defendants include dealing in child pornography, in which offenders use the internet to transmit child pornography images or videos through online networks, possession of child pornography, or sexual exploitation of a child.
The task force, established by Biden in March, 2007, employs investigative and prosecutorial resources to identify, track down, and prosecute criminals who seek to prey on Delaware’s children. With specially trained staff from the Attorney General’s Office and Delaware State Police who are co-located at its Dover headquarters, the Task Force employs proactive efforts to identify and track down predators and pedophiles before they harm a child. Its mission is multi-faceted and includes:
• Establishing ongoing internet sting operations to proactively identify, target and capture predators before they reach Delaware’s children.
• Finding and prosecuting traditional manufacturers, distributors, and possessors of child pornography.
• Being an educational resource for children, parents and teachers by providing information about child predator tactics, advice on ways to avoid victimization, and instructions on methods to report unlawful activity to the authorities.
Today, the task force consists of eight full-time staff, including a prosecutor, four investigators, a forensic examiner, and two paralegals, along with six additional Delaware State Police investigative staff whose responsibilities include task force cases. The task force, which is co-directed by a deputy attorney general and a Delaware State Police sergeant, maintains investigative relationships with every law enforcement agency in the state, as well as federal law enforcement agencies.
Since 2007, Delaware has been awarded $2 million from the US Department of Justice through three grant programs to continue and expand its fight against online child sexual exploitation. The funds have been used to enhance Delaware’s ability to conduct proactive undercover online enticement and child pornography cases, increase its capacity to prosecute cases, and fund law enforcement training and public outreach. They include:
• $437,000 in Federal Recovery Act funds
• $1,111,000 in renewal Internet Crimes Against Children funds
• $468,000 in Community-Oriented Policing Services funds
Together, these grants have been used to:
• Hire additional staff to support child predator investigations
•Train first responders and other law enforcement on procedures for addressing 911 calls reporting child predator offenses
• Assist Delaware State Police in tracking down fugitives who use Delaware as a safe haven and/or have failed to register as sex offenders as required by law
• Pay equipment needs and operational expenses
In 2008, Biden successfully advocated for two stronger child protection statutes to enhance the ability of the Child Predator Task Force to better protect children and their families. The legislation, which toughened sentences for child predators and closed loopholes in Delaware’s Megan’s Law - the state’s sex offender registry statute - were both enacted with unanimous support in the General Assembly. The strengthened criminal penalties enacted through the legislation:
• Increased the penalties for unlawful sexual contact with children
• Toughened the penalties for possessing and distributing child pornography
• Established a mandatory prison sentence for distributing child pornography
• Broadened the law to account for all forms of child pornography, including the use of new electronic devices, such as camera phones and iPods
The 2008 amendments to Delaware’s Megan’s Law changed Delaware’s sex offender registry statute to provide additional protections to Delaware’s children by requiring the following people to register with the Delaware State Police:
• Criminals convicted of a sexual offense in a jurisdiction outside of Delaware, including an offense committed in another country.
• Criminals convicted of a sexual offense prior to the enactment of Delaware’s sex offender registry statute on June 27, 1994. This includes offenders who have been serving prison time from pre-1994 convictions and are scheduled to be released.
“The tougher penalties we’ve used successfully over the past five years to take predators off the streets reflect the reality that pornographers are predators who threaten the safety of our kids,” Biden said.