In partnership with the U.S. Dept. of Justice, Hamilton County law enforcement officials are being commended for their work in investigating and prosecuting child exploitation crimes in Indiana.
On Oct. 15, the U.S. Dept. of Justice recognized the Hamilton County Metropolitan Child Exploitation Task Force for its work on the Project Safe Childhood initiative and Operation Dry Dock that resulted in the arrests and convictions of 10 people for crimes related to child exploitation.
The task force is made up of police officers from the Carmel Police Dept., Fishers Police Dept., and the Dept. of Homeland Security.
Fishers Police Dept. Capt. Cameron Ellison is the director of the Hamilton County Metropolitan Child Exploitation Task Force and was assigned to the task force in 2011 as a lieutenant.
“We have the task force itself, and then we have this longstanding, close relationship with Homeland Security where we have a Homeland Security investigations agent in our office every day,” Ellison said. “In general, the way it works is that we conduct our investigations and have cases and work those jointly, whether it’s our task force working on a state-level case, or we might be assisting the agent on a federal-level case.”
Ellison said the local task force is one of several agencies nationwide working under the umbrella of the federal Internet Crimes Against Children task force.
The Project Safe Childhood initiative launched in 2006 and combats the proliferation of technology-facilitated sexual exploitation crimes against children. It operates out of U.S. Attorney’s offices.
Locally, cases from the initiative resulted in the sentencing of five men who all pleaded guilty to various counts of sexual exploitation of a child, transportation of visual depictions of minors engaged in sexually explicit conduct, shipping and transporting child pornography and offense by a registered sex offender. Adam Armstrong, 29, Frankfort; Daniel Doyle, 33, Franklin; Jason Frye, 37, Frankfort; Timothy Reeves, 37, Linton; and Zachary Ballinger, 33, Franklin, were sentenced to a combined 1,410 months in prison.
“The unique part of these types of investigations is there are no real jurisdictional lines with these cases,” Ellison said. “Someone could be in another country and victimizing somebody in Indiana or Fishers. The local agency has a very limited capability to investigate the person who’s perpetrating those crimes. We deal with the victim, but we may not deal with the follow-up. With this cooperation with Homeland Security, we can actually play an active role in that follow-up and track that case all the way back. It works the same way in reverse, where we may have a suspect here that’s victimizing someone else in a different state or country. This task force is a very well-connected group, and we’re able to work with one another over all kinds of jurisdictional lines.”
In addition to the convictions stemming from Project Safe Childhood, the U.S. Dept. of Justice recently announced results from Operation Dry Dock, an investigation targeting offenders using social networking tools to sexually exploit children and traffic child pornography.
“Operation Dry Dock was a continuous, long-term undercover investigation, and the overarching initiative is all-encompassing of all of those types of cases that get filed through (us),” Ellison said. “It was almost four years ago that this case was actually active, and the case itself lasted well over a year. On the federal side, they don’t really release any information until all the defendants have been sentenced.”
As of Oct. 15, the investigation had identified 18 children in Indiana, Kentucky, Texas, Louisiana, Ohio, Canada and South Africa who were victims in these types of crimes. It also led to the prosecution of at least 11 offenders, including Warren Knoop, 32, South Africa; Chato Patterson, 43, Indianapolis; Bradley Dennison, 30, Jeffersonville; Garrick Jorgensen, 39, Ohio; and Steven Robinson, 43, Texas.
“The Carmel Police Dept. is proud to be a partner in Project Safe Childhood,” CPD Chief Jim Barlow said. “The officers assigned to this project are tasked with a very difficult but rewarding job. The hard work of the members of Hamilton County Metropolitan Child Exploitation Task Force has spared countless children the horrors of being future victims.”
For more, visit justice.gov/psc.