Shedding light on the problem

Law enforcement officials take a grimly pragmatic approach to Internet crime.

"A computer is nothing but a tool used by a sexual predator to abduct a child," said Ron Laney, director of the child protection division at the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Programs, which oversees the Internet Crimes Against Children task force program.

"And that is exactly what we look at it as — a tool — and how can we keep up technically with them," he said. "As a matter of fact, we have to be more advanced than them so that we can catch these individuals preferably before they do anything."

According to a 2000 national survey of young people ages 10 to 17, about one in five had received a sexual solicitation over the Internet in the past year, while one in 33 received an "aggressive sexual solicitation," meaning an individual had asked the kid to meet him somewhere, phoned, or mailed money or gifts. (For more details, see box on Page 46.)

Also, one in four received unwanted "pictures of naked people or people having sex," and one in 17 was threatened or harassed.

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