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Investigating Web Crimes Challenges Utah, U.S. Agencies

Sun Advocate reporter

The number of Internet predator crimes targeting youth continues to increase at locations across Utah and the United States.

In addition, the crimes present complex technical and investigative challenges for law enforcement authorities. And the global nature of the Web requires close coordination among federal, state and local government agencies.

Investigators on the state's computer crimes task force have received specialized training and assistant attorneys general are cross-designated as state and federal prosecutors to ensure that accused offenders are charged in the appropriate system.

To date, the task force has opened more than 300 cases and made almost 100 arrests.

Late last month, the Utah Attorney General's Office filed the state's first Internet predator case in 2006.

The felony level criminal complaint charges an 18-year-old college student with allegedly attempting to arrange to engage in unlawful sexual activity with a young girl via the Internet.

According to the court documents, the defendant reportedly contacted an undercover agent online posing as a female minor.

During the Internet chat, the male subject allegedly indicated the desire to engage in a sexual relationship with the underage female.

State and federal law enforcement authorities, in conjunction with Utah computer crimes task force agents, arrested the suspect when the 18-year-old attempted to meet the minor at a location in Salt Lake County.

The college student faces prosecution on two second degree and two third degree felony counts of enticing a minor over the Internet.

Investigators from the attorney general's office, department of corrections, Wasatch Front police departments and federal immigrations and customs enforcement agents assisted the Utah Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force at the scene of the suspect's arrest.

"This arrest should send shivers to anyone who has children," commented Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff. "The ICAC task force will continue to monitor the Internet, but we also need parents to be vigilant to make sure their children stay away from some of the creeps out there."

Two-thirds of all households in Utah have a computer. Nearly half of the homes in Carbon County and across the state have Internet access. And the nature of the Internet creates potential dangers for youth, pointed out the attorney general's office.

A recent survey revealed that one in five teens has received an unwanted online request to engage in sexual activities or provide sexual information. One in four youth has been exposed to online pornography.

Chat rooms may seem like an idenal way to meet people. But remember:

• You never know who is there.

• People you meet onlline are not always who they seem to be.

• Nothing you type is private, so never give out any personal information


E-mail makes it easy to stay in touch with friends. But to play it safe:

• It's best not to respond to an e-mail from someone you don't know.

• Don't open files attached to e-mails from someone you don't know.

Exploring the Web

The Internet is a great place to do research for school, shop, and learn more about your hobbies. But for your safety and privacy:

• Avoid "adults only" Web sites and if you encounter adult material, leave the site immediately.

• If you go to a Web site that requires you to provide personal informatjion to gain access, ask you parents first.

• Get a parent's permission before buying anything online.

Last year, the state's computer crimes task force arrested 60 suspects for purportedly enticing youth over the Internet, child sex abuse and child pornography. In 2002, ICAC received the FBI Director's Award for Excellence for "Outstanding Support to the Law Enforcement Community" for bringing different agencies together to combat crimes against children and Internet child pornography.

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