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Ashcroft Spotlights Knoxville's Efforts To Protect Children Online

By Damon Marturion
New Business News Staff Writer

Announces $200,000 Grant to Bolster Local Task Force

KNOXVILLE, TN -- Attorney General John Ashcroft today highlighted the exemplary work of the Knoxville Police Department's multi-agency task force in combating Internet child exploitation. In a visit to Knoxville, the Attorney General announced that the Justice Department had awarded an additional $200,000 grant to help the task force continue and expand its efforts.

The Knoxville Police Department played a significant role in the Operation Avalanche undercover child pornography investigation that the Attorney General announced last week. Operation Avalanche has already resulted in 96 arrests in 37 states, with additional arrests forthcoming. The Knoxville task force made eight of the Operation Avalanche arrests.

"Too many young people today are subjected to dangerous and inappropriate experiences on the Internet, which is why the work of Knoxville, and the other Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces, is so critical," said Ashcroft. "The Knoxville task force is an outstanding example of the inter-agency cooperation and coordination needed to effectively investigate, prosecute and prevent online child sexual exploitation."

The Justice Department's Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) initially awarded $299,971 in February 2000 to the Knoxville Police Department to form the task force, with the Knox County Sheriff's Office, the District Attorney's Office for the 6th Judicial District and the Tennessee Department of Children's Services. To date, the task force has arrested 18 offenders, seized 50 computers and trained more than 800 law enforcement officers and prosecutors throughout Tennessee. The task force has also referred 63 cases to other jurisdictions for arrest or other follow-up and provided assistance in 50 cases handled by other law enforcement agencies. The ICAC task force has worked closely with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the U.S. Customs Service, the FBI and the local U.S. Attorney's Office.

Knoxville is one of 30 regional task forces supported under OJJDP's Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force Program. The ICAC program encourages communities to develop regional, multi-jurisdictional and multi-agency responses to Internet crimes. Grant funds help ensure that investigators receive specialized training in Internet crimes and are equipped with the most up-to-date computer technology. The task forces developed as part of the ICAC program are also sources of prevention, education and investigative experience to provide technical assistance to parents, teachers, law enforcement and other professionals.

Abandoned sites and their domain names have grown because of the way domain names are registered. Less then ten years ago, domain names were limited to 14 characters, so Web site owners had to create acronyms and abbreviations to fit space requirement.

This year OJJDP began the Investigative Satellite Initiative, through which additional law enforcement agencies work with the regional task forces to expand ICAC investigations. Thirty-four satellite efforts are underway, with more to be announced by the end of the year.

. . . watch for more stories coming soon  

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