By Paul Boyer
Thousands of children in Arizona are waiting to be rescued and it will not happen for most of them unless we act.
In Arizona, we know of 15,000 IP addresses (the Internet Protocol labels assigned to each computer device) belonging to people who are trading and downloading child pornography. A significant number of these videos and images consist of infants and young children being raped, tortured, and sexually abused. Some of them even include “how to” instructions on how a grown man can rape a three-year-old and groom him or her for years of abuse.
Statistically, 50 to 70 percent of those who download and trade child pornography are considered “hands on” offenders who are actively molesting and abusing children. Meanwhile, 60-65 percent of the images intercepted in Arizona are of prepubescent children, while infants make up nine percent of victims. Because of these very young ages, most victims cannot or do not report the abuse.
As the House Education Chairman, I care deeply about good education policy. But for the children who cannot sleep at night for fear of sexual abuse by child predators, no education policy, however well designed will help them. They desperately need law enforcement to rescue them from their abuser.
I have just introduced legislation that would enable the state to equip, train and hire 10 to 15 full-time investigators and forensic examiners for the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force. House Bill 2517 has 79 co-sponsors and uses $5 million of state lottery money – $4.5 million to equip, train and hire full time investigators and forensic examiners, and $500,000 to help victims.
Every state that has passed similar legislation was experiencing budget struggles, and Arizona is no different.
Last year, we appropriated an additional $60 Million to create the new Department of Child Safety making it an $834 million funded agency after realizing there were 6,600 uninvestigated cases of children in harm’s way. With nearly three times the amount of uninvestigated cases of children being raped, tortured and sexually abused, how can we not act now?
National studies show the average offender has between 14 – 23 victims before law enforcement catches them, which is why ICAC investigations are so critical. While Arizona has tough sentencing laws for those who prey on children, there are currently only four full time investigators in the state to proactively look into this depravity, and just a handful of part-time investigators from various agencies.
Right now, those investigators are focusing on triaging leads to locate “hands on” predators. With hundreds of new leads of child pornography coming in every month, they cannot keep up with current leads. This means less than two percent of known child exploitation cases are being investigated. We need to act and we need to act now.
Let the 52nd Legislature be known as the one that acted swiftly to rescue kids when it was in our power to do so.
Republican state Rep. Paul Boyer represents Legislative District 20 in Phoenix and Glendale.