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New Technology Takes Down Child Porn Users

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FDLE has a new weapon in the fight against child porn. A high tech bus will pull up to the suspected offender's home and confiscate their computer. (CBS4)

FDLE has a new weapon in the fight against child porn. A high tech bus will pull up to the suspected offender’s home and confiscate their computer. (CBS4)

Carey-Codd-600x450 Carey Codd
Carey Codd is a General Assignment Reporter for CBS4 News and jo...
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I-Team
South Florida Crime

MIAMI (CBS4) – The state’s latest tool to clamp down on child pornographers might not look like much from the outside — a plain-looking white van.

But investigators say the van has enhanced their operations by allowing them to put handcuffs on suspects much more quickly.

One morning in mid-January — after a pre-dawn planning session — investigators from the Internet Crimes Against Children, or ICAC, task force drove the van into a quiet, working class Margate neighborhood.

Their target was a man suspected of downloading and sharing explicit images of “very young children under the age of 12 engaging in various sex acts” with adults and children, according to an arrest report.

The suspect, George Baram, emerged from his house wearing a shirt that read, “It’s your lucky day.” For Baram, it turned out to be anything but lucky.

As agents from the ICAC carried computers, hard drives and compact discs out of Baram’s home, technicians began sifting through the computer hardware in the van.

Within a short time, they discovered the videos.

An arrest report shows that Baram confessed, saying he downloaded the videos then deleted them. Baram told investigators, “that he has never touched a child in a sexual manner.”

Mike Phillips, FDLE’s Chief of the Computer Crimes Center, said the van enables agents to do time-consuming forensic examinations on the spot, which is a major change.

“Before we were having to leave suspects out on the streets until we could fully look at all the evidence,” Phillips explained. “We can now conduct a search warrant and make a decision and take the predator off the street so they can now longer prey on children and exploit them.”

Phillips said there is a “significant increase” in child pornography cases statewide and because of the heavy caseload, Phillips said that in the past it could take up to a year to examine a suspect’s computer.

Stats from FDLE show that in 2011, the agency made 1,076 arrests in child pornography cases statewide. In 2008, that number was 749.

The van is assisting agents to deal with the caseload, Phillips said. He added that it also encourages confessions. While agents in one section of the van are examining the computer equipment, they can confront the suspect, who is seated in another section, with the images of child pornography found on his computer.

“We have had suspects break down and cry,” Phillips said. “We’ve had suspects that become defiant, that want us to learn why this is ok. Because in their minds they truly believe that abusing children sexually is normal.”

FDLE also has more agents at its’ disposal in their fight against child pornography.

Last summer, agents from the state attorney general’s office joined forces with FDLE. The agents were spread across the state and it resulted in an increase of 6 officers fighting crimes against children in South Florida.
“It allows us to share intelligence, share training, share information much more quickly than when we were having to be in separate offices,” Phillips said.

The ICAC is comprised of agents from 57 agents across South Florida and into Naples. The task force is federally funded and is headed by the Broward Sheriff’s Office.

The van has been a welcome addition to the efforts to curtail the downloading and sharing of child pornography. With all the latest technology inside, the van’s cost about $100,000 and there are three of them operating statewide.

The van sat quietly outside George Baram’s home in Margate as cyber detectives built their case against him.

We spoke to George Baram briefly after he was handcuffed and led to a waiting unmarked police car. When asked why he was being arrested, Baram initially denied downloading child pornography. Then he said, “You download stuff, music, sometimes file names are mislabeled.”

When asked if he watched the videos of child pornography that investigators say they found on his children he told CBS 4 News, “I delete them.”

FDLE, meanwhile, said they expect more arrests as they use this van to continue the task force’s crackdown on child pornography.

“For some of these people they may be on the verge of actually molesting a child,” said Bob Breeden, FDLE Assistant Special Agent in Charge. “For every person that we can take off the street that’s involved in child pornography that may be one child that doesn’t get victimized.”

FDLE agents say parents need to pay close and constant attention to the online activities of their children. FDLE recommends a website — secureflorida.org — which has safety tips and important information for keeping track of the websites your child visits and their passwords.

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