The Internet Watch Foundations says child pornography is one of the fastest growing online businesses. There are thousands of sites victimizing children. In Wichita Falls law enforcement is cracking down.
Just a few months ago in January Wichita Falls Police arrested Thomas Arredondo, 27. He was found to have child porn on his computer. Police had been tracking him for quite some time.
A big part of that operation was Raymond Perry. He is an eight year detective in the WFPD Crimes Against Children Unit.
Their operation and what they do to track child predators is mostly unknown but there are some details he did tell Newschannel 6.One is that the unit works closely with Patsy's House, a children's advocacy center.
Raymond has an undercover computer housed inside there. "Everyday that I come in I can look and see if there is anybody that has been tagged for being in our area," said Perry.
It doesn't happen everyday or every week that they'll find someone. In the course of the past year the unit has cracked down on 10 cases of child pornography in Wichita Falls.
"People don't want to believe it happens and they would probably be shocked to know that here in our small town there are these cases," said Sgt. Ginger Gilmore.
Gilmore tells Newschannel 6 that tracking, finding and arresting these predators are difficult. "They're very time consuming investigations," she said. "You have to identify the images as child pornography. You have to identify who has access to that computer."
More importantly someone has to certify the images are child pornography.
"It does affect you, you go home and give your kids a hug because maybe you've seen a child that has been abused," said Perry.
They work closely with ICAT, Internet Crimes Against Children in Dallas and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. It has a national database of known images of children of sex crimes. People who are involved in child exploitation tend to circulate the same images over and over. This database tracks those images.
"If one group of images is labeled as child porn and it's found on another computer on the other side of the country you can still certify it as child pornography because that victim as been identified as a child," said Sgt. Gilmore.
The Crimes Against Children Unit only has three detectives. That often means smaller crimes of child sex images don't get as much attention.
"That's the disappointing and shocking thing to us because we wish we could capture every one of 'em," said Gilmore.
Shannon May is a forensic interviewer with Patsy's House. She works closely with police detectives.
"I've done just over 750 forensic interviews," she said. "If Raymond identifies a child that we know is local victim of child pornography. He'll set up an appointment and my job will be to interview that child."
These cases are hard for her too. Often times she says that the child doesn't even know they are a participant in the crime.
"Sometimes when it's just, JUST, pornography they don't understand that as being a crime, if they're just have pictures taken of them."
What's interesting to note is there is some correlation between child pornography and child sex abuse. Sometimes the crimes go hand in hand. What starts off as a child porn case can often lead to something else.
"The numbers are increasing alarmingly to the numbers that actually put hands on children as well," said May.
Despite the sensitive nature of these cases, there are positive things they all look forward to.
"It's pretty intense but it's pretty rewarding to know that you've been able to get somebody off the streets that's been victimizing kids," said Perry.
A criminal can spend anywhere from 2 to 20 years behind bars for involvement in child pornography. Officials says that promotion of images is worse than possession. Newschannel 6 has a number of resources with information on Internet safety. Click here and here.