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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Director of Legislative Affairs
Joint news release from Attorney General Cuccinelli and PROTECT....
Cuccinelli joins law enforcement, legislators in support of Alicia's Law
RICHMOND (February 7, 2012) -- Alicia's Law, the Virginia legislation inspired by the rescue of a captive child, has generated more law enforcement funds than projected in its first two years and should be expanded immediately to ensure more child rescues.
That's the message delivered today by a group of Virginia law enforcement and legislative leaders who joined the pro-child, anti-crime group PROTECT for a press conference in Richmond.
The gathering included Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, Captain Kirk Marlowe of the Virginia State Police and Bedford County Sheriff Mike Brown, as well as Deputy Majority Leader Todd Gilbert (R-Shenandoah) and Senator Creigh Deeds (D-Bath).
"Alicia's legacy now lives on in a new generation of young people who have been brought to safety, as she was," said Senator Creigh Deeds, original sponsor of "Alicia's Law."
"There isn't anything more pressing or more important than putting the needed money into the hands of the Internet Crimes Against Children task forces," said Delegate Todd Gilbert. "This is a problem we can solve by dedicating additional resources."
Alicia's Law created a dedicated state fund that supports law enforcement task forces dedicated to combating child exploitation, including child pornography trafficking and online enticement of children. When passed in 2010, lawmakers projected $1.8 million in state funds, but revenues generated by special court fees have exceeded those estimates by $650,000 annually.
"In just the first two years of Alicia's Law, arrests have more than doubled, with over 332 last year alone," said Camille Cooper, PROTECT Director of Legislative Affairs. "Child rescues happen every week now, thanks to Alicia's Law." But Virginia law enforcement continues to be overwhelmed by the volume of child pornography trafficking and online enticement of children, with long delays for conducting forensic analysis.
"The increased funding for law enforcement reduces backlog and provides the tools necessary to keep our children safe," said Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. "I'm pleased to support an initiative that will help protect Virginia's most vulnerable and innocent citizens."
Speakers at the news conference were flanked by the mug shots of Virginia child predators taken off the streets and convicted using Alicia's Law funds. Nearly all the cases highlighted involved the rescue of children, some as young as toddlers.
Attorney General Cuccinelli's Remarks:
Virginia has some of toughest child exploitation laws in the country. And our office – with the help of Virginia’s Internet Crimes Against Children task forces – has convicted dozens of child sexual predators over this past year alone, in both federal and state courts.
Take the case of 29 year-old Paul Marlowe who solicited six children online from his neighborhood in Richmond. He brought them to his parents’ apartment and showed them images of child pornography. He did that in an attempt to normalize the activity for the children. Then he raped them.
Then there’s the case of Joseph Ludwig from Chesterfield, who was previously convicted of sexual assault. Upon gaining access to the Internet, he solicited new images of children being sexually abused and then redistributed thousands of those images to people all over the world. Thanks to the teamwork of ICAC, other law enforcement, and our prosecutors, Marlowe is now serving a 20-year prison sentence and Ludwig is serving a 22-year sentence.
The problem is that there are literally thousands of predators like them who continue to perpetuate the cycle of child abuse by producing child pornography and by trolling the Internet to trade child pornography or to even solicit our children. That’s why the Internet Crimes Against Children task forces – or ICACs – are so vital to law enforcement.
Both the Northern Virginia task force – known as NOVA – and the Southern Virginia task force – known as SOVA – are the law enforcement clearinghouses in Virginia for tips and leads involving child exploitation crimes, such as child pornography and online solicitation of minors. The ICACs have been working diligently for more than 10 years to ensure that Virginia's children are safe and that predators are removed from our communities. Notably, the ICAC task forces leverage local, state, and federal law enforcement to effectively investigate and help us prosecute the crimes.
The effect of the current funding has been measurable. In 2009, SOVA ICAC made 78 arrests. In 2011, they made 130. In 2008, the NOVA ICAC made 98 arrests. In 2011, they made 202, with 70 percent reporting.
My office has been a partner with both ICACs for a number of years and has seen their work first hand. The Computer Crime Section in my office is tasked with prosecuting child exploitation cases and assisting in such investigations. We see a dire need across the commonwealth for additional computer forensic examiners to examine the computers seized in these cases. That’s because the volume of information at times is just tremendous.
Because of a lack of examiners, most law enforcement agencies have a three- to six-month backlog in computer forensics, which means that evidence is sitting for months before it reaches the hands of investigators and prosecutors who can bring charges. To help reduce the backlog, our Computer Crime Section has recently started assisting law enforcement with computer forensic examinations. But even more manpower is needed.
That’s why I’m backing this amendment: This additional funding would have an immediate effect on reducing that backlog across Virginia even more, because part of it would allow us to hire an additional forensic examiner – one that’s paid for by the offenders themselves.
I believe that continued funding of the ICACs through this dedicated stream of offender fees is essential, and I support this amendment, which directs all money collected through these fees to the important tasks of investigating and prosecuting these crimes against children. I can see of no higher use for that money than to put a stop to those who would prey on the most vulnerable in our commonwealth.
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