Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine’s new Crimes Against Children Initiative is a comprehensive plan to target sex offenders who prey on kids.
“These people are predisposed to prey on children,” Attorney General DeWine said. “They’re literally like sharks, and they’re going to hit just as fast as they can. We’re going to hit back. We hope to impact all of the evilness — the sexual abuse of children as well as illegal child porn swapping and viewing.”
Here are five components of the new initiative:
- BCI is creating 15 positions and reassigning other staff members to form a new Crimes Against Children Unit that will pursue child predators.
- Two attorneys in the Special Prosecutions Unit will help local prosecutors build cases against sex offenders who prey on kids.
- The office is assembling a Rapid Response Team of child victim advocates, special prosecutors, and BCI agents to help victims and jump-start investigations.
- BCI and OPOTA are expanding training on sexual predator investigations and providing local agencies with high-tech resources.
- The AG’s office will conduct a public awareness campaign targeting sex offenders wanted on outstanding warrants.
Chief says initiative needed
Westerville Police Chief Joseph Morbitzer and other law enforcement officials joined the Attorney General for a news conference detailing the plan. Morbitzer’s department ran an operation targeting predators from 2003 to 2009, when it joined with other agencies to form the Franklin County Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
“We’ve been working extremely hard in the past, but independently. This demonstrates that we’re all working in the same direction,” he said. “It’s a cooperative effort, and that’s what we need.”
Morbitzer said a statewide initiative will bring more resources to the fight. It also offers the potential for a deconfliction tool that would help local agencies coordinate rather than unknowingly interfere with one another’s investigations. In addition, he said, assistance and training available through BCI and the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy (OPOTA) will help local departments keep up with the ever-evolving technology used by offenders.
“This brings this heinous crime to the forefront where it should be,” Morbitzer said. “With the Attorney General leading the way, there will be renewed interest and the potential for stronger sentencing and court-ordered treatment.”
BCI hiring more agents
BCI is filling 15 new positions and reassigning current staff to the Crimes Against Children Unit. The unit will include 10 special agents assigned throughout the state — eight with an investigations focus and two with a cyber crime focus — as well as a special agent supervisor, two computer forensic specialists, a criminal intelligence analyst, and a support staff member.
BCI will troll the Internet for predators, increase its forensic analysis capabilities, and help local law enforcement serve arrest warrants. A Rapid Response Team will be comprised of victim advocates, special prosecutors, and BCI agents.
“We will expand our existing efforts to assist local prosecutors in sexual abuse cases,” Attorney General DeWine said. “Whatever they need, we are here for them and ready to assist.”
OPOTA, BCI stepping up training
Using the resources of both OPOTA and BCI, the Attorney General’s Office also will provide more training on how to conduct child porn and online predator investigations.
The initiative’s final component is a public awareness campaign that will publicly display pictures of Ohio’s most wanted child sex offenders.
As of Dec. 30, Ohio had 19,050 registered sex offenders, 10,527 of whom committed offenses against children. Of those, 109 offenders who victimized children were sought on outstanding warrants.
“During my time in this office, I will not relent,” Attorney General DeWine said. “We are going to find these child molesters and put them in jail.”