Plan includes new Internet Crime Unit, tougher penalties, 'One Stop Shopping' for reporting suspicious online behavior, and better use of technology in battle against internet crime
CHICAGO Governor Rod R. Blagojevich today unveiled a bold new plan to fight Internet crime that builds on his efforts to protect families and communities from sexual predators and give law enforcement the tools and resources they need to go after criminals. The cornerstone of the Governor's Internet Crime Initiative is a new Internet Crimes Unit, which will be dedicated solely to combating online crime, including identity theft, child pornography and drug solicitation.
The Internet has many wonderful applications, but it has also afforded new opportunities for criminals and sexual predators. A New York couple, for example, convinced a 15-year-old girl to meet them at the mall where she worked, promising to help her run away from home. From the mall, the couple took the girl to their home where she was repeatedly sexually assaulted and beaten, and then they took her to another home where she was sexually attacked by a third adult. The girl originally met the couple in an online chatroom.
“As if parents didn’t have enough to worry about, now they have to worry about criminals and sex predators going after their children on the Internet too. We’re not going to tolerate that. That’s why we’re creating a new Internet Crimes Unit at the State Police that will approach Internet crime the same way we approach organized crime, narcotics and other major crimes. It’s why we’re going to toughen penalties and increase jail time for Internet criminals and sex predators. And it’s why we’re going to give parents a place to call when they have questions, concerns or specific information to report. I know this isn’t an issue the state has to take on, but I think it would be wrong not to,” Gov. Blagojevich said.
The Governor’s plan has four main components:
· Creating a centralized Internet Crimes Unit (ICU) under Illinois State Police authority.
· Increasing penalties of Internet crime.
· Designing the ICU to serve as a ‘One Stop Shopping’ center where the public can report suspicious online behavior and get information about Internet crime and safety.
· Using the most advanced law enforcement technology available to combat Internet crime.
Internet Crimes Unit
The Illinois Crimes Unit (ICU) will be comprised of ten officers, seven computer forensic investigators and eight crime analysts. The goal is to create a unique enforcement group capable of educating the public, gathering information from the private sector, coordinating investigations with other bodies and agencies of law enforcement, de-conflicting investigative efforts, researching crime, proactively searching the Web for criminal activity and then performing the required forensic work to further investigative efforts and assist prosecutors in jailing offenders.
Direct links to a dedicated website for the ICU will be placed on all state webpages so the public can report crime to the unit. A toll-free number and direct email address will also be established for the public. The ICU will work with local, state and federal law enforcement bodies and agencies to investigate crimes reported and found through their own investigated work.
Internet Crime Penalties
Legislation will increase penalties for Internet criminals and sex predators. The proposed changes include:
· Elevating a first-time Internet stalking offense to the felony level;
· Establishing an Internet Predator Investigation and Prosecution Fund;
· Addressing the quantity and type of child pornography in sentencing considerations;
· Making misrepresentation of a person via the Internet a criminal offense;
· Adding the use of electronic communications as a factor in aggravation.
‘One Stop Shopping’ Internet Crime Center
The Internet Crimes Unit will educate the public, provide an initial point of contact for citizen inquiries, serve as a repository for public safety information, offer statewide de-confliction for investigations, offer criminal intelligence analysis for law enforcement agencies, and provide non-traditional techniques for monitoring and preventing criminal predatory behavior and computer evidence recovery for investigations and trial preparation.
Internet Crime Law Enforcement Technology
While respecting the rights and civil liberties of individuals, the most advanced law enforcement technology, such as Riverglass, a data analysis tool currently used to combat narcotic trafficking, organized crime and terrorism, will be used to help track online criminal activity.
The Governor’s Office is currently working with the Illinois State Police and proper authorities to establish the Internet Crimes Unit, and the new legislation will be submitted to the Illinois General Assembly for approval during their Fall Veto Session in November.
Last July, Gov. Blagojevich signed several new laws designed to help protect both sex crimes victims and communities from sexual predators, including:
· House Bill 4222: requires sexual predators to be on Global Positioning System (GPS) monitoring during parole;
· Senate Bill 859: requires disclosure of sex offenses for teacher endorsement and certification;
· House Bill 4606: raised the deadline for certain victims of sexual assault to report the offense to law enforcement, from two to three years, in order for the 10-year statute of limitations to apply;
· Senate Bill 2962: puts additional restrictions on sex offender’s ability to get a driver’s license;
· Senate Bill 2873: allows an offender who is in prison because of a non-sex offense perpetrated while on parole for a sex offense to be referred to the Attorney General for commitment as a Sexually Violent Person;
· House Bill 4298: creates the Interstate Sex Offender Task Force for the purpose of analyzing other states’ sex offender registration and residency laws and how that affects Illinois;
· Senate Bill 3016: adds information such as the license plate number of every vehicle registered to a sex offender and any distinguishing body marks to the sex offender registry.
Earlier in the summer, the Governor also signed the following bills that offer increased protection from sex offenders:
· House Bill 4179: prohibits identify theft and sex offenders from changing their names;
· House Bill 4375: gives the Illinois State Police access to the information obtained through the Unemployment Insurance Act, which includes sex offenders’ current and former places of employment;
· House Bill 5249: clarifies the current 500-foot rule for child sex offenders by including child care institutions, day care centers and part-day child care facilities among the areas that child sex offenders are not allowed to be within 500 feet of;
· Senate Bill 2162: prohibits custody or visitation by the father of a child if the father is convicted of certain crimes that resulted in the conception of the child, unless the child’s mother or guardian consents.
The following are Internet safety tips recommended by NetSmartz, an online educational tool that the state will provide training for all school districts, parent groups and non-profits in Illinois to use:
(1) Clear, simple, easy-to-read house rules should be posted on or near the monitor. Create your own computer rules or print the Internet safety pledge. The pledge can be signed by adults and children and should be periodically reviewed.
(2) Look into safeguarding programs or options your online service provider might offer. These may include monitoring or filtering capabilities.
(4) Websites for children are not permitted to request personal information without a parent's permission. Talk to children about what qualifies as personal information and why you should never give it to people online.
(5) If children use chat or email, talk to them about never meeting in person with anyone they first "met" online.
(6) Talk to children about not responding to offensive or dangerous email, chat, or other communications. Report any such communication to local law enforcement. Do not delete the offensive or dangerous email; turn off the monitor, and contact local law enforcement.
(7) Keep the computer in the family room or another open area of your home.
(8) Let children show you what they can do online, and visit their favorite sites.
(9) Have children use child-friendly search engines when completing homework.
(10) Know who children are exchanging email with, and only let them use chat areas when you can supervise. NetSmartz recommends limiting chatroom access to child-friendly chat sites.
(11) Be aware of any other computers your child may be using.
(12) Internet accounts should be in the parent's name with parents having the primary screenname, controlling passwords, and using blocking and/or filtering devices.
(13) Children should not complete a profile for a service provider, and children's screennames should be nondescript so as not to identify that the user is a child.
(14) Talk to children about what to do if they see something that makes them feel scared, uncomfortable, or confused. Show them how to turn off the monitor and emphasize that it's not their fault if they see something upsetting. Remind children to tell a trusted adult if they see something that bothers them online.
(15) Consider using filtering or monitoring software for your computer. Filtering products that use whitelisting, which only allows a child access to a preapproved list of sites, are recommended for children in this age group. NetSmartz does not advocate using filters only; education is a key part of prevention. Visit the resources section for Websites that provide information on filtering or blocking software.
(16) If you suspect online "stalking" or sexual exploitation of a child, report it to your local law-enforcement agency. The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) has a system for identifying online predators and child pornographers and contributing to law-enforcement investigations. It's called the CyberTipline®. Leads forwarded to the site will be acknowledged and shared with the appropriate law-enforcement agency for investigation.
An Illinois teenager barely avoided being victimized by a 19-year-old Texas college student she met online as the result of her mother’s alert intervention. When confronted by the mother who demanded to know who her daughter was talking to on the telephone, the suspect identified himself as a police officer and advised her that the suspect (himself) had been killed in an automobile crash and that her daughter’s help was needed in Texas to identify the body. Unsuccessful in his attempt to lure the Illinois teenager, the man turned to a 20-year-old Canadian and her four-year-old-child whose images he broadcasted live via a web camera. The perpetrator asked viewers whether he should rape the woman, kill her, or kill both the mother and child. A friend saw the broadcast and reported it to police who rescued the woman and toddler.
It is incidents such as those the new Internet Crimes Unit is meant to prevent. And, the public can help by taking some basic precautions, such as those outlined by NetSmartz, and now by reporting suspicious online behavior to the ICU.