KINGMAN - Kingman Police will soon have a new tool to track internet sex crimes.
KPD has entered into an intergovernmental agreement with the Arizona Internet Crimes against Children Task Force. Kingman City Council accepted earlier this month a sub-grant in the amount of $3,000 for the department’s purchase of a laptop, hardware and related software to enhance investigations into internet crimes against children that include child pornography and sexual exploitation.
“It’s not really prevalent in this area, but per-capita, compared to other Arizona cities and town, we’re about average,” said Deputy Chief Rusty Cooper. He added that KPD received about 12 tips in 2016, but made no arrests. “We do get tips and we do assess and evaluate for a local connection.”
He said the anonymous nature of the crimes make it difficult for detectives to identify a suspect, and even when they do, computers are admitted as evidence to a Phoenix crime lab where it could take up to two years before investigators get to the case. Cooper said most suspects get caught when family or friends see images on a computer or find links when a suspect forgets to clear their search history.
“We know these crimes are happening and many go unreported,” he said.
When they do get reported, the weight of the crimes takes a toll on both the victim and the detective.
“Every time an image is viewed, that child is victimized,” Cooper said. “Unfortunately our officers have to view those images. They’re trained to determine age by looking at the person’s stage of development.”
Possessing and viewing child pornography is a class 2 felony, which could net a suspect 10 years in prison for every image they possess. Cooper said some internet users might not be aware they have images on their electronic devices, especially computers. Certain file sharing techniques can inadvertently transfer images to a computer. Unsecured home or public Wi-Fi connections can make computer users vulnerable to unsuspected downloads.
“Lock your Wi-Fi,” Cooper said.
Detectives can catch cyber crooks via a computer’s IP address or surveillance video from public places, but it’s not easy.
“This is very detail-oriented and time sensitive work,” Cooper said. “Our detectives have very special training and skill sets.”
The KPD detective who will investigate internet sex crimes against children has taken a computer forensics class and will work with other law enforcement agencies throughout the state, sharing information and changes in internet trends.
“It’s important to stay as current as possible,” Cooper said. “The willingness to collaborate was part of the grant requirements.”
He said there have been Kingman arrests made by federal agencies, but not by KPD.
The equipment has yet to be purchased. Once KPD receives the money, the department will put out a bid for the computer and software. The detective who investigates internet crimes such as fraud and identity theft will also investigate internet child sex crimes. Cooper said the department needs the separate computer and software to specifically be able to log into a suspect’s computer without tainting evidence.
“That’s also why it’s become critical to have someone who specializes in internet crimes,” said Cooper.
KPD always welcomes info about possible internet sex crimes.
“Some people might seem embarrassed,” Cooper said. “They can remain anonymous.”
To contact KPD detectives, visit the station at 2730 E. Andy Devine Ave. or call 928-753-2191, Silent Witness at 888-227-8780, on the KPD website’s “Leave a Tip” link or their new KPD app.