UNH Study Documents Law Enforcement
Success Against Internet Sex Crime
Contact: Erika Mantz
UNH Media Relations
November 10, 2003
DURHAM, N.H. -- Law enforcement in the United States is having notable
success in its effort to combat Internet-related sex crimes against
children, according to a University of New Hampshire study.
The study, "Internet Sex Crimes against Minors: The Response
of Law Enforcement," points to more than 2,500 yearly arrests
for such crimes, extensive cooperation among local, state and federal
agencies, and the effective use of undercover sting operations as
some indicators of success. In addition, prosecutions of these Internet-related
crimes appear to be more successful than prosecutions for other
child sex crimes.
The research was conducted by UNH's Crimes against Children Research
Center and researchers Janis Wolak, David Finkelhor and Kim Mitchell,
with funding from the National Center on Missing and Exploited Children,
and the U.S. Department of Justice.
The study found law enforcement pursuing Internet sex crime in a
variety of ways. More than 40 percent of arrested offenders were
involved in criminal relationships with actual children, which were
mostly reported to law enforcement by victims, their families and
other citizens. A quarter of the arrests came from undercover operations
in which agents, posing as minors on the Internet, were themselves
solicited for sexual acts. Another third of the arrests were of
offenders who had not solicited victims, but
had used the Internet to download and trade child pornography. These
criminal activities were of a generally serious nature. For example,
83 percent of arrested offenders who possessed child pornography
had sexual images of children between the ages of 6 and 12, and
80 percent had images that explicitly depicted the sexual penetration
The study was based on a national survey of law enforcement agencies
and more than 600 interviews with criminal investigators.
The research highlighted the complex nature of the challenges posed
by Internet sex crimes against minors. Because offenders often reside
far from their victims and violate both state and federal law, most
of the investigations involved agencies in multiple jurisdictions,
and in half, a federal agency as well, such as the FBI or the U.S.
postal inspection service.
In spite of this complexity, the report found that 95 percent of
the state and 93 percent of the federal prosecutions led to convictions.
The report attributed some of this success to the extensive electronic
evidence that frequently exists when crimes involve the Internet.
The report urged continued training for law enforcement in the techniques
for combating Internet sex crimes, with particular emphasis on methods
for multijurisdictional co-operation.