The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) has announced that it’s received its half-a-millionth report of suspected child pornography or child exploitation crime.
The half-million mark comes nine years after the CyberTipline was mandated by the U.S. Congress to serve as the nation’s “9-1-1” for reporting incidents of child sexual exploitation. NCMEC’s Exploited Child Division (ECD) personnel analyze and develop the leads, which are then referred to law enforcement for investigation and prosecution. Since its creation, the number of reports to the CyberTipline has shown significant increases in many of the reporting categories.
“Here’s what we know, an estimated 1 in 5 girls and 1 in 10 boys will be sexually victimized in someway before they reach the age of 18,” said NCMEC President and CEO Ernie Allen. “The constant growth in reports to the CyberTipline is staggering. Even more disturbing is that these figures don’t reflect the true number of children being victimized because sex crimes involving minors are grossly underreported.”
CyberTipline reports are collected in the following seven categories: Child Pornography; Child Prostitution; Child Sex Tourism; Child Sexual Molestation; Online Enticement of Children for Sexual Acts; Unsolicited Obscene Material Sent to a Child and Misleading Domain Name.
The possession, manufacture and/or distribution of child pornography has remained the highest reporting category with 443,096 (89%) total tips to date.
“Nearly 60 percent of the identified children shown in the child abuse images or videos are prepubescent, while an estimated six percent are infants,” Allen said. “What we’re seeing today, however, is a horrifying trend where the child victims are getting younger and the molestation is becoming increasingly more violent.”
Shocking as these figures are, there are success stories thanks in part to the initial reporting of a suspected crime.
In one 2006 case, a major Internet Service Provider made a report to the CyberTipline which led to the identification and arrest of a 55-year-old California man charged with sexually molesting his six-year-old daughter live via webcam. Using the information provided and a still image of the sexual abuse, an ECD analyst searched online photo albums for matching physical characteristics, including a convicted sex offender registry. The analyst was able to identify and verify the suspect’s screen name, real name, age and possible location. Within hours of receiving the CyberTipline report, the San Bernardino Sherriff’s Department executed a search warrant at the suspect’s home, where he surrendered to police and confessed to molesting his daughter. Police said the suspect also had additional images of child sexual abuse in his possession. The defendant, who was the primary caregiver of his two minor daughters, pled guilty to child molestation and was sentenced to 12 years in prison.
Allen said, “These suspects and thousands more like them were stopped because of a CyberTipline report and excellent police work. We encourage anyone who believes a child is being sexually assaulted or exploited to contact the CyberTipline.”