This exploratory study was conducted to better assess how technology can be used in criminal investigations; it is important to get a better understanding of how technology is currently employed in child sex trafficking as well as the approaches and needs of law enforcement. 144 investigators from Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Forces and affiliate agencies responded to an online semi‐structured survey, including 45 investigators with experience conducting investigations of the commercial sexual exploitation of children (CSEC) that involved technology. Participants included investigators working in local, county, and state law enforcement agencies in the United States. The discussion suggested a great deal of variation in perspectives and experiences surrounding the problem of CSEC and technology. Investigators were able to highlight both benefits and obstacles. Benefits included the availability of digital evidence instead of relying on personal accounts, the monitoring capabilities of police, and the ability to conduct extensive undercover operations. Obstacles tended to focus on financial concerns, the continual need for training and technical assistance, and the rapidly changing technological environment. Findings highlight the vast complexity and variability in these crimes. There is still quite a bit of the unknown when it comes to investigating CSEC – technology changes rapidly and avenues for marketing and communicating are vast. Continual education, training and technical assistance are central to investigators’ needs in this area.
Crimes against Children Research Center
Mitchell, K.J. & Boyd, D. Understanding the role of technology in the commercial sexual exploitation of children: the perspective of law enforcment. (2014). Crimes against Children Research Center, University of New Hampshire: Durham, NH.