The number of offenders sexually exploiting children, particularly through pornography, has skyrocketed with the Internet, reports the Baltimore Sun. That has led to a more than 20-fold increase in cases investigated since the late 1980s and an even bigger jump in those prosecuted at the federal level. Law enforcers are focused on the problem like never before. But are the strategies working?
The concentrated attack has a meager impact. The Maryland State Police has just four full-time investigators focusing on such child exploitation. Child sexual abusers once had to find their prey in the schoolyard or neighborhood and risk receiving pornography in the mail. But the Internet gives them easy access to kids through social networking sites, pornography through peer-to-peer sharing sites, and a community of like-minded people through online chat rooms. At any given time, according to federal data, about 50,000 pedophiles are seeking victims online. As the number of offenders mushrooms, authorities say they can’t keep up.