The Internet video of a man sexually assaulting two preteen girls was tough even for seasoned investigators to watch, but the Hartford-area radio station playing in the background gave them the clue they needed, says the Hartford Courant. The video had surfaced in Japan, been sent to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Virginia and landed in 2003 with Hartford police and the state police Computer Crimes Against Children Task Force, then in its infancy. A combination of old-fashioned shoe leather and high-tech sleuthing led to an arrest that year.
Although investigations of computer-based crimes until recently have been predominantly the province of state police, the task force has launched an ambitious training program to provide local police departments with the skills and equipment needed to investigate online predators and child pornography. So far this year, 133 local officers have been trained, compared with three last year. The number of cases investigated by local departments increased from 34 in 2009 to 90 so far this year. “I never really envisioned there were that many people involved in child pornography,” said Sgt. Jim Smith of the state police forensics lab. “I’m flabbergasted still by the number of people out there.” Investigators face the challenge of keeping up to date on the latest technological developments in a cat-and-mouse game with perpetrators. “The newest toys are available for the bad guys, and they usually have better funding,” said Lt. James Wardwell of the New Britain Police Department.