Target 2 on Assignment: Internet Crime from Behind the Badge

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DE PERE, Wis. (WBAY) – De Pere Police say criminals are using easily accessible, anonymous websites to their advantage to access child porn, take part in human trafficking and solicit prostitutes.

Target 2 reporter Andrea Hay recently graduated from an eight-week Citizen’s Academy with the De Pere Police Department, and learned that without an internet crimes department, cyber tips are what lead officers to these offenders.

The academy instructors are detectives who make calls on those tips, so they won’t be named in this report.

“I’ll give an example of my most recent cyber tip: it came from Google—said, ‘hey, this person tried to upload a child porn image to their email. Here’s the email address. Here’s the image. Here’s what we know about this person,’” said a northeast Wisconsin detective. “And I get the report, and I go out, go to the house, do a search warrant at the house where the guy is—and he’s got child porn on his computer.”

Investigators have to prove who was using the computer at the time of the download.

They can’t use the actual pictures in court without re-victimizing the child, so they have to use descriptions they say are not as damning to a judge and jury.

“In some of the cases I’ve worked I remember hearing the feedback, ‘why didn’t you go after the people that did this? He didn’t do anything, he didn’t touch anybody,’” one investigator recalled.

“Well this is no different than actually sexually assaulting that child,” was his response.

“That ‘addict’ that just has to look at a picture, do they take it one step further? Meet up with a young kid, sexually abuse them, do they create a more gruesome crime? They’re going to want more eventually,” said Officer Jedd Bradley of the De Pere Police Department.

The police citizen’s academy instructor showed the class all of the networks most-frequented by sex offenders.

“I want you to see those and recognize those because—I’ll be blunt: if you see these on your husband’s, boyfriend’s, kid’s networks—I’d really, really question why they’re there,” the detective warned.

“99.9% of these are guys. I have yet to arrest locally a female,” he added.

Rarely do friends, family or co-workers suspect a child porn addict until that person is arrested.

“There is no profile, and that’s what makes it even scarier. Detectives come and arrest them—I mean, they’re going to their jobs, pulling them out of their houses. You would’ve never thought John Doe has been doing this child pornography site in the basement,” Bradley said.

It’s not just internet child porn by itself—it breeds other online crimes, Bradley says, “there is a huge spike in human trafficking. There’s a huge spike in prostitution.”

Prostitutes are easily solicited online—and live in the classroom, one is baited by our instructor within seconds on logging on.

“I just said, ‘hey what’s your rates’” he reads, moment before a  ‘Ding-ding.’

Many prostitutes are runaways.

“One of six of those runaways end up being trafficked for sex,” said the instructor. “I know that happens, I’ve had cases where that’s happened. They’ve gone as far away as Saint Louis, Minneapolis, Milwaukee obviously, Chicago. These victims are coming from a broken home and are seeking companionship. They have a low self-esteem.”

Our instructor– shared the story of a woman who drove up to De Pere from Milwaukee—her controlling pimp in tow.

“She shows up, and hiding in the trunk of her car was her pimp,” re-counts the detective. “Which was quite a scare when we opened up the trunk. We know these girls are being beaten, raped, taken advantage of-not just by the pimps, but by the sex buyers.”

De Pere police rarely arrest prostitutes, preferring to send them a warning just by showing up to their calls–and taking them to crisis centers so that they don’t feel alone.