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National organizations help fight child porn in DeKalb County

Published: Tuesday, May 28, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Local police recently found 11 files of child pornography on a 26-year-old Sycamore man’s computer, but the case started hundreds of miles away from DeKalb County, authorities said.

Andrew G. Thompson, 26, of the 1100 block of Jenny Drive, Sycamore, was arrested May 9 after Sycamore police received a tip from the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children, authorities said. Thompson is next due in DeKalb County court Wednesday.

It’s one example of those local law officials have been aided by national efforts to crack down on child pornography with the help of technology and public awareness.

John Shehan, the executive director of the center’s Exploited Child Division, said the center is authorized by Congress to aggregate tips about child exploitation on the Internet. Tips can come from two kinds of sources: the public and electronic service providers, such as Google, Yahoo! and Facebook. 

“If they become aware of child porn on their servers, they are required to report any incidents of child porn to the tip line,” Shehan said. 

Michelle Collins, vice president of the Exploited Child Division, said the number of reported cases of child pornography has increased recently. In 2012, there were 415,650 cases of child pornography reported to the center’s CyberTipline, she said. In 2011, there were 326,310 cases reported. 

This year, the center has receive about 10,000 reports a week, which is more a week than last year, Collins said. During one week in May, the center’s tipline received 11,000 reports of child exploitation, Shehan said. Over 9,800 of these tips were from electronic service providers.

A growing public awareness of how to report child pornography cases may be the cause of the rising number of reports, Collins said. Internet companies are also becoming more aggressive on reporting any child pornography they find.

“There’s much more visibility efforts on cracking down on this type of crime,” Collins said.

Once the center receives the tip, they try do to some analysis, Shehan said. For instance, if a tip has a particular email address attached to it, the center will conduct open-records searches to try to track down who might own that address.

“It’s publicly available, you just need to know where to look,” Shehan said. 

Whatever information they provide is forwarded to the appropriate state attorney general, who then works with local agencies to track down the suspect.

Child pornography cases in the DeKalb County area are usually handled by the Sycamore Police Department, said DeKalb Lt. Robert Redel. When Sycamore police receive information on a case from a town or city outside their jurisdiction, they will contact those departments to investigate.

Redel said the DeKalb Police Department handles about four or five cases of child pornography a year. The DeKalb police handled a child pornography case recently when, on April 5, they arrested Michael Rydell, a former Northern Illinois University graduate student, on charges of possessing and distributing child pornography. 

Scott Mulford, press secretary for Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, said law enforcement is keeping up to date with technology to examine child pornography cases, but in some cases they are using the same kind of technology as the people they are investigating. 

“What’s happening in all areas of law enforcement is that you’ll make strides, but the bad guys will get bigger and stronger,” Mulford said. 

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