MIAMI - A multi-agency law enforcement team is using software to pinpoint where people with child pornography on their computers are.
"Child predators are typically ghosts," said agent Mike Phillips of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. "They hide and molest children where people don't see them, but we're able to find the ghosts."
The people they're targeting don't necessarily have guns, drugs or even a criminal record. Their weapon of choice? A computer -- allegedly loaded with child pornography.
But, when this multi-agency team hits the streets, they now have a secret weapon to fight back. The software allows police to look at an image and track it to a house or apartment in any city. -- no matter where they live.
"This is one of the greatest improvements in law enforcement technology in 20 years in law enforcement," Phillips told Local 10 Crime Specialist John Turchin. "Before, the suspects could trade child pornography across the internet and we wouldn't know where they were located. They could have been anywhere in the world. We have a library of known child pornography. Once we find someone that's trading that known image or video, we trace it back to the residence."
The software is inside the team's mobile unit.
"The geeks on my squad have nicknamed thing 'ECTO ONE,' the Evidence Collection and Technical Operations van," explained Phillips. "If you remember in the Ghostbusters movie, that's what they used to go catch the ghosts."
And, that's their intention.
"Sometimes people say, ‘Well, I don't know how it got on my system,' or ‘I didn't download it on purpose,' FDLE agent Clifford Stokes said. "But sometimes you can just look in the full path and see where people have created folders that they name certain things -- like personal videos."
In a recent statewide sweep, the unit targeted 115 men. Sixty-eight were arrested with ongoing investigations on several others. Phillips says to expect to hear about more of them in the future.
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