The Boone County Prosecutor’s Office has partnered with local law enforcement to form a Child Abuse and Sexual Exploitation, or C.A.S.E., Task Force.
The task force, launched in February, is designed to help law enforcement agencies develop an effective response to technology-related child exploitation and internet crimes against children.
Detectives from the Boone County Sheriff’s Office, Zionsville Police Dept., Whitestown Metropolitan Police Dept. and Lebanon Police Dept. comprise the task force.
“This is a significant problem in Boone County and nationwide, and we want to get the word out there so that people know about the C.A.S.E. Task Force,” Boone County Prosecutor Kent Eastwood said. “The exploitation of children using the internet has exploded, especially during the pandemic.”
Eastwood said Indiana alone reported 14,000 tips last year of children being exploited through the internet. In 2021, the figure was 7,000, and in 2020, it was 3,500.
“We’re seeing the numbers double every year,” Eastwood said. “That’s 14,000 cases that have to be investigated, so we are trying to address this issue the best way possible with a dedicated team to investigate these cases who are specifically trained.”
Task force officers have a broad range of expertise encompassing forensic and investigative components, training, technical assistance, victim services, prevention and education.
“Our residents know all too well the havoc that these cases can wreak on the victims, their families, and our community,” Eastwood said. “This expansion of investigations will significantly aid in combating the ever-increasing cyber-facilitated exploitation of children in Boone County.”
The Indiana State Police awarded the task force a $35,000 grant this year for additional forensic testing equipment and investigator training.
“We need our town council members and county council members to financially support the law enforcement agencies that are making up the task force,” Eastwood said.
Eastwood said child exploitation crime on the internet is increasing, so he added that it is vital that parents are proactive in children’s social media use.
“Parents need to know who their children are communicating with online, and there are ways to do that, whether it’s using various programs out there or just having an honest conversation with your child,” he said.