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BOCA RATON (CBSMiami) – It is some of the most sophisticated and fascinating technology that you will ever see and it’s being used right here in South Florida – and across the country – to catch people sharing, viewing and even creating child pornography.
The tech is responsible for the headline-grabbing arrest over the summer of Carl Lechner, a longtime, trusted gymnastics coach in South Florida, who was involved in the lives of countless children.
According to Broward Sheriff’s Office detectives, Lechner had a strong interest in watching and viewing child pornography and he faces dozens of criminal charges.
CBS4 News is pulling back the curtain on what led to Lechner’s arrest – technology from the Child Rescue Coalition (CRC).
Bill Wiltse, executive vice president of the Child Rescue Coalition, showed CBS4 News how the technology works. He put up a map of the world on a computer screen and allowed it to fill up with red dots.
“Every one of the dots on the map represents a computer that’s been online since this morning that has possession of at least one file which depicts a prepubescent child being sexually abused,” Wiltse said. “The prevalence of child abuse material on the internet in the world today has reached pandemic levels.”
Wiltse said it’s like having an army of virtual police officers constantly scouring the internet for these disturbing, horrific images that are cataloged by law enforcement.
“We’re essentially deploying digital police officers on the street corner of the internet in a public area and we’ve told them, ‘This is what to look for and when you find it send it back to us,’” Wiltse said.
Wiltse showed CBS4 how he can drill down into those red dots and see where computers in Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale, Miami or Hialeah might be viewing child porn. That info gets loaded into a database for investigators to search.
Wiltse said his organization has no idea who is viewing the child porn. In other words, they don’t have names of the people behind the keyboard. Wiltse added the only thing that’s put in the agency’s database is the information that can locate the computer. However, Child Rescue Coalition programmers do use technology to figure out if the computer belongs to someone with access to kids.
“These are the individuals that we believe are in positions of trust or other areas where we believe they pose a greater risk than someone else to children,” Wiltse said.
Broward Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Giuseppe Weller has spent years working with ICAC, the Internet Crimes Against Children Unit. He said the Child Rescue Coalition has helped speed up the process of finding people who consume and create child porn and even people who molest children.
“That system is one of the greatest tools out there right now for us,” Weller said. “The ones that are hiding behind the doors or in their rooms or in their houses or your next door neighbor, it’s exposed a lot, a lot of people who are actually hands-on offenders to children.”
And Wiltse said it is the goal and passion of the Child Rescue Coalition to get suspects like Lechner off the streets.
“Our focus and our mission is to supply law enforcement with everything they need to find those that victimize kids,” Wiltse said.
The Broward State Attorney’s Office said they’ve prosecuted close to 150 cases based on information supplied by the Child Rescue Coalition.
Miami-Dade prosecutors said they have received cases from the FDLE and the Miami-Dade Police Department.
In all, the Child Rescue Coalition tells us their technology has been responsible for the arrests of 6,000 people in the U.S. and in more than 50 other countries.
To read more about their efforts, visit childrescuecoalition.org.