U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and law enforcement officials held a press conference at the state crime lab Monday to applaud the passage of a bill aimed at cracking down on the growing problem of child pornography.
The bill, which is awaiting President Barack Obama’s signature, was written to curb instances of child porn on the Internet. It’s a problem Blumenthal said is growing at about 150 percent a year.
“This problem is very real, urgent, and immediate, and this measure will provide new tools to crack down against vicious sexual predators who exploit existing legal gaps in the law,” he said.
The legislation would double the penalty to 20 years for possessing pornography involving minors aged 12 or younger. The bill also gives courts additional tools to safeguard victims and witnesses of child pornography against intimidation or harassment by making protective orders more feasible.
Blumenthal said the bill also will provide funds for the Internet Crime Against Children Taskforce, a national partnership of local, state, and federal agencies.
“This measure really fosters and promotes the kind of cooperation and partnership between local and state and federal law enforcement that is key to cracking down on child pornography,” he said.
State Police Major Bill Podgorski said that partnership helps his agency conduct proactive investigations into cases of child pornography as well as educate young people about the dangers of the Internet. So far this year, the task force in Connecticut has conducted 260 investigations tat have led to 36 arrests. Podgorski said the legislation was important to keep the operation running.
“The ICAC program needs funding. If it wasn’t for that we would be in serious jeopardy. We wouldn’t be able to conduct these types of investigations,” he said.
Blumenthal said he couldn’t yet quantify how much funding the bill will provide for the task force.
“My hope is that it will significantly increase the resources available. We’re going through some very tough times and tough decisions in Washington right now but this kind of work ought to be a priority,” he said. “The amounts of money are relatively small compared to the funding challenge.”
State Police Sgt. Kevin Albanese of the Computer Crimes Unit agreed that funding was a challenge and said the state could not afford to keep the investigations going on its own.
“Unfortunately this is a very expensive field,” Albanese said as he gave reporters a tour of the computer crime lab.
Because of the rapidly changing nature of technology it takes a lot of money to keep troopers trained and the lab’s equipment up to date, he said.
“I could probably blow through 90 percent of that funding in two days just on equipment,” he said.
Laura Cordes, executive director of Connecticut Sexual Assault Crisis Services, said the provisions of the bill make it easier for victims to get protective orders against offenders and will go a long way for victims and their families.
“It is not uncommon for sexual assault victims and their families to be threatened, manipulated, coerced by offenders who are hoping to keep them silent through the investigation or through trial,” she said.