BOISE -- Police officers afraid that Idaho will become a safe haven for child pornographers helped convince a Senate panel to lend its initial support to a proposed $2 million measure to boost efforts to fight cybercrime.
The Senate State Affairs unanimously backed the plan on Wednesday morning. Now, the full Senate will debate the bill.
Initially, the Idaho attorney general's office would use money recovered in consumer protection cases to fund startup of the expanded Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
The five-year-old current task force would end up with more than double its current number of investigators to tackle complex cases where sophisticated computer skills are necessary to catch people producing, trading and consuming child pornography.
Unfortunately it's very prevalent. In the state of Idaho, we know that we have 5,000 leads that we can follow up on. Those are guaranteed for sure leads, Jim Kouril, Commander of ICAC Task Force, said.
Of those thousands of leads, Kouril says they can only follow some of them, and thousands aren't even pursued.
We don't have the resources, Kouril said. Currently we have a few highly trained investigators in the state that are able to do this full-time. But that number is so low, the average investigator can maybe work 100 cases a year. Well when we're talking a potential 5,000 cases for one year, we need more people to work more cases.
Kouril says possessing child pornography is a problem that is worse than inappropriate images.
If it's somebody that's possessing child pornography, there's an 80% likelihood that that person is victimizing a child, Kouril said.
If the bill passes, the Internet Crimes Against Children Unit would have 11 investigators, two forensic examiners, a deputy attorney general, and a part-time legal secretary.
Prosecutors say having more specialized investigators helps in gathering evidence and convicting predators.
Having technologically sophisticated investigators within any agencies, having a coordinating unit for them, is essential to doing these cases efficiently, U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson said.
Ongoing costs for the agency would run about $1.6 million annually for the newly formed unit. Attorney General Lawrence Wasden would oversee the group.