Over the past decade, government agents and computer experts have gone after hundreds of people who solicit sex from kids or trade child pornography online, the Associated Press reports. Police efforts were all the rage with the media in the early 2000s, including Dateline NBC’s “To Catch A Predator” series. Despite the publicity, trading child porn online and grooming underage targets in chat rooms has exploded nationwide, AP says, reporting from Madison, WI. With arrests more than quadrupling in 10 years, Wisconsin’s agents and analysts feel overwhelmed. “I don’t think we’ve made significant progress at all,” Wisconsin Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen said. “Our community leaders don’t even know how bad the problem is. The general population has no idea.”
The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s cyber tip line took 85,301 reports of child porn and 8,787 reports of online enticement last year. Investigations of Internet crimes against children resulted in 3,000 arrests nationwide in 2008, says the U.S. Justice Department. The statistics show how an entire generation has moved online, seeking reinforcement from others with the same abhorrent sexual tastes, said Michelle Collins, executive director of the missing children center’s exploited child division. Most disturbing is the correlation between child porn and enticement, said Wisconsin forensic computer analyst Dave Matthews. Viewing leads to doing, he said. “They’re grooming themselves,” he said.