U.S. Attorney urges efforts of Internet predator task force

WHEELING – Online sexual predators are motivated individuals and are working hard to not be caught by law enforcement officials.

U.S. Attorney William J. Ihlenfeld II on Wednesday urged law enforcement officers involved in the state’s Internet Crimes Against Children Unit to work harder than the offenders they are chasing.

Developed in response to heightened predatory activity online to reach potential underage victims, ICAC combines all levels of law enforcement to end threats and bring down human trafficking rings.

ICAC provides training and resources for more than 30,000 law enforcement officers, 3,500 prosecutors and 5,300 other professionals in the field each year. The task force is a subdivision of the Department of Justice and works in each state to protect children and teenagers from potential online menaces.

“The offenders have tremendous motivating factors,” Ihlenfeld told the group. “Your motivating factors must be greater. I remember that each time I look at my children.”

Ihlenfeld said law enforcement will work continuously to repel the problem.

“We are all in this together,” he said. “Every day we are working on cases involving crimes against children using the latest-greatest tools and technology. We work around the clock.”

He attributed the efforts of ICAC unit members in reaching out to parents and children as the reason every community in the state knows the unit is fighting back.

“Having the bad guys in handcuffs means we had a good day at the office,” he said.

Ihlenfeld said prosecution of human trafficking in the country has quadrupled since 2010, reflecting the increase in discovered incidents, a trend which has been occurring since 2008. He said this is the result of new, more stringent laws concerning underage solicitation, and more sophisticated techniques for stopping potential threats before harm can be done.

Ihlenfeld’s comments came after WVICAC Task Force Commander Sgt. James Kozik gave opening remarks and introduced Unit Commander Lt. Danny Swiger, who urged the group to work together to fight the problem.

“The Internet is a great vehicle to access information,” Swiger said. “But it also is a great opportunity for the sexual exploitation of children.”

(Alan Olson contributed to this story.)