Protecting children against sexual predators
As featured in the Tri-City Herald
Evil exists in our world. There are people who intentionally harm their fellow man. There are predators who commit horrendous crimes against our precious children.
As a career law enforcement officer, I've witnessed firsthand the absolute atrocities predators inflict upon children. Add together these dangerous people with modern technologies and you have an equation ripe for disaster. One of the most frequently committed crimes law enforcement officers and prosecutors are experiencing today is the sexual exploitation of children.
According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, 1 in 5 girls, and 1 in 10 boys, will be sexually victimized before adulthood.
Washington state, per capita, has the highest amount of child pornography downloads in the nation.
The internet can be a very dark world and powerful tool. Anyone with ill intent can log on and prey on a young victim. This has become more common than most people understand.
It's possible you have seen headlines about the many “net nanny” operations taking place in our communities. In these sting operations, undercover detectives establish contact with actual, or would-be, sexual offenders. They operate with the intent to identify and take into custody sexual predators before they inflict harm on innocent children.
Since 2015, these sting operations have netted 246 arrests and rescued more than 30 victimized children across the state.
These operations make a positive difference in our communities by taking these would-be or serial sexual offenders off our streets. There are law enforcement agencies across the state who have personnel dedicated to this task — often referred to as Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) units. They work hard to locate and take into custody these dangerous predators.
One benefit the internet provides is the digital trail left by the actions of these predators. Their electronic footprint provides law enforcement officers with the evidence they need to identify, locate and apprehend these suspects.
Unfortunately, once a suspect is identified, the process to obtain a search warrant for the electronic records is extremely lengthy. There have been cases where it took a law enforcement officer, or prosecutor, nine or more trips to court before a judge would authorize the warrant.
Time is critical! To be hamstrung by an unnecessarily slow process delays getting crucial information to our law enforcement officers so they can protect our children as quickly as possible.
I introduced House Bill 1872, which would amend current statute to streamline a subpoena process for these particular cases. I believe this change does not eliminate due process, or violate anyone's constitutional rights. It would simply authorize a prosecutor, or the attorney general, to issue an administrative subpoena for the production of the needed electronic records to identify and hopefully locate these sexual predators.
Our ICAC detectives need this straightforward process so they can protect more children faster. This process is successful in other states across the country. Some having a far more robust process than what House Bill 1872 would provide. If this can be done successfully elsewhere, there should be no reason why we can't implement a similar process in Washington state.
I urge everyone who wants to keep our children safe to speak out. Write a letter to your local newspaper. Call your elected officials via the toll-free hotline (800) 562-6000. Make your voice heard!
Evil exists, but together we can change that.