Last week I attended a disturbing meeting. Not a City Council meeting or a committee meeting but rather a meeting with law enforcement on child pornography. I did not know what to expect.
The Silicon Valley Internet Crimes Against Children (SVICAC) is responsible for investigating cases of web-facilitated child pornography and cases of child sexual exploitation or abuse that results from contact over the Internet. There is a small team that works in this capacity that presented at the meeting. A San Jose Police Department officer gave a very informative presentation, and the seriousness of the content was striking.
There is no typical profile for a person who commits crimes related to child pornography other than they are almost entirely male. The offenders run the gamut of all ages, ethnic groups, sexual orientation, religion, education, income, etc. Through its investigations, the SJPD has arrested people in Bay Area cities outside of San Jose. This team seems very committed to the task at hand and partners with the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office.
I had never seen child pornography, however, I was about to find out during the presentation. During the meeting they showed some censored photos. At first the photos looked innocent enough, but soon they became something I could not have imagined and cannot repeat here. Suffice it to say, the photos were very disturbing—to the point that I grimace as I write this blog.
I especially appreciate the efforts of law enforcement in this area as a significant portion of those who view child porn may also victimize a child. For some, it is a cycle as many child molesters were molested themselves as children. Some may say there are cultural issues and that viewing child porn is OK as certain countries or cultures have different social norms. But after seeing it first hand, I do not believe any culture could condone the acts depicted.
The accessibility of this content is available via peer-to-peer file sharing applications. Files are shared across international borders, raising the issue above the level of local law enforcement. Like other types of crime, only a fraction of those who download child pornography are actually caught. Pedophilia is a psychiatric disorder and treatment may reduce incidents, but there is no cure.
Today, each conviction requires the efforts of an extensive technical police investigation. Perhaps in the future, there may be a less time consuming way to identify these people via new Federal legislation. For now, though, know that you have a committed team at SJPD along with the Sheriff’s office doing their best to investigate, arrest and convict.