Mo. ranked 2nd in child porn arrests - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Mo. ranked 2nd in child porn arrests

POPLAR BLUFF, MO (KAIT) – Law enforcement agencies nationwide have been dealing with new technologies as they protect and serve, and recently the number of child pornography arrests have increased in Region 8. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, there were more than 3,000 victims of child pornography since July of 2010 nationwide. Ten child porn cases were prosecuted in 20009 in eastern Missouri. In 2009, 85 people were convicted of child pornography in Missouri's Eastern District Court.

"There was a time where pretty much (police) departments were lost when it came to these types of crimes. It's not that way anymore. I mean, they're realizing, whether it be child pornography or narcotics cases, people do deals with their cell phones. I mean, technology is starting to play a big part in other crimes as well," said Det. Scott Phelps, investigator with the Southeast Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force.

Phelps said for the last four years, he has been working to crack down on internet crimes against children, which range from child pornography cases to cyber bullying.

"Whether it be child pornography, sexting, we stay swamped and this type of work requires a lot more subpoenas and search warrants. Those subpoenas, you get those out to these places. You don't know how long it's going to take to get them back," said Phelps. "There's just so many avenues for them to contact. It's not going to get any better. It's just going to get worse. I think it'll get a lot worse."

Phelps said peer-to-peer file sharing networks have become an avenue for pedophiles to exchange child pornography. He also said some collections of videos and pictures have been found on cellular phones.

"The problem is getting worse. You have now kids younger and younger who have smart phones, and the smart phones today can do essentially what a computer can do," said Phelps.

The Southeast Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force is based out of the top floor of the Poplar Bluff Police Department. It serves 16 counties surrounding Butler County, including all of the Missouri Bootheel. The agency received $105,206 grant from the Missouri Department of Public Safety.

"You're waking up judges and prosecutors to get subpoenas and search warrants, whatever it may be. You work until you get to that house, find the location, get to that house and help that kid," said Phelps. "We've done peer-to-peer cases where the victims are infants, victims that are 1, 2 and 3 years old. When I tell people that, it shocks them. That really shocks them as well."

Phelps said when he first started his job as investigator, he was surprised to learn anyone can be an offender.

"We did a search warrant here in Poplar Bluff and it was a lady in her mid-50s who had a large collection of child pornography. She was a grandmother," said Phelps. "To be honest, it was a shock for me too. I had this thing in my mind where there was a certain type of person that does this. When we go do this search warrant and after we're there for just a few minutes, we realize the suspect is a mid-50 year old woman."

Phelps said most people who are arrested for child pornography, possession or distribution, claim they did it for a common theme.

"They just have a preference for pre-pubescent females or males for that matter. That's usually their answer. It's that simple," said Phelps. "Most of the time, they're response is that normal pornography just doesn't do it for them anymore. They need something different."

"A lot of times the suspects, in these cases, are people you would never think would do that. You can go back and do some research and see where there's been numerous times where police officers, doctors, attorneys, religious leaders that have been caught up in this," said Phelps.

Copyright 2011 KAIT. All rights reserved.

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