Internet sex crimes and kids: Investigating 'child porn' cases

MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - For cases involving adults and child sexually abusive material, Marquette County authorities say one case usually leads to another.

"It's kind of like an onion," said D/Lt. Lowell Larson of the Marquette County Sheriff's Office. "You just keep peeling back the layers."

Larson says there are three open investigations right now involving adults and child sexually abusive material.

"When you have developed one suspect, usually you'll find more suspects when these images are transmitted over the internet," he said.

Marquette County Prosecutor Matt Wiese says lately his office has seen a few more solicitation cases than normal.

"They will either video or photograph that person or acts of sex with that person, and that's been kind of a trend that's happened," said Wiese.

Suspects can also face charges of possession and distribution.

"They're found by happenstance sometimes," he said. "I've had cases where somebody has their computer being repaired and the technician notices the material and notifies law enforcement."

Larson says some of the material that adults trade is generated by kids themselves - teenagers on their cellphones. Servers of apps like Snapchat can be hacked.

"Yes, you can send out the images very quickly, however there are things that what we call metadata that are embedded in these files that allow us to indentify the sources," said Larson.

When it comes to adults, a Michigan State Police task force works with Marquette-area law enforcement specifically on these cases.

"Whether it be a sting or a response to an agency that has an issue with something local," said Larson.

But he says it can take a long time to investigate. For example, Larson is working on a case right now involving a server in Canada.

"It's going to be a multi-month affair just to get the records from the Kik platform," he said, referring to another popular phone chat app.

In the meantime, Wiese says he's convinced that investigators are only seeing very little of what's out there.

There's another area of concern, with teens possessing this sexually abusive material of each other. It's commonly called sexting, or sending explicit images by using a cell phone.

This story is part one of a three-part series on Internet Sex Crimes and Kids. On Tuesday's TV6 Morning News, we'll take a closer look at the potential legal consequences of sexting that teens either aren't aware of or aren't afraid of.



 
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