CLARKSDALE, Miss. -- A new law and software will allow Mississippi law enforcement to target Internet predators and those who traffic in child porn online.
The legislation, Senate Bill 2978, was signed by Governor Haley Barbour and could provide as much as a half-million dollars annually to State Attorney General Jim Hood's Cyber Crimes Center and newly established Cyber Crime Unit. This will allow Hood's team to arrest and prosecute those found guilty of downloading any form of Web child porn, with penalties of five years in prison for each image downloaded, reports the Clarion-Ledger .
Hood called a new software tool, Operation Fairplay, "astounding" and more precise than DNA testing. He said the system identifies and tracks Internet downloads of child pornographic materials.
According to the Clarksdale Press-Register, Mississippi and Florida currently are the only two states equipped with this new software and authorities are already tracking downloads and refining procedures.
"Our investigators are now able to target the worst offenders," he told the newspaper,
"We are able to go onto the computers of those who download large numbers of child pornographic pictures and look for pictures of unknown photographs of children in their home or those of neighbors that they may be abusing. The Fairplay technology allows us to actually rescue children from this environment."
"Every single day we are on the heels of a child predator," Hood said.
"In fact, right now, we have enough evidence to convict over 2,000 people in this state, but we need more help and resources,"
In a demonstration of the software, using Clarksdale as an example, red blocks on a screen showed computers that had downloaded child pornography during the past 30 days. Hood's new unit can trace the Internet protocol address and see exactly what illicit material was downloaded.
"When we arrest the perpetrator, we are not going to negotiate anything," he told the paper. "This office and those prosecutors are asking for five years in prison per download. This will not be negotiable. Saving a child from this type of living hell of abuse is the most rewarding work I do as Attorney General. It helps to heal all of the battle scars from this job."
The Operation Fairplay project was developed in association with the Center for Exploited and Missing Children.
Hood said his Cyber Crime Center will also conduct statewide investigations in Mississippi when a computer or computers are used for other criminal activities. But 75 percent of the cases involve the exploitation and sexual abuse of children.
The Clarion-Ledger cites disturbing statistics from the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, such as:
Association of Sites Advocating Child Protection CEO Joan Irvine commends the state law enforcement move and the new software.
"Operations Fairplay sounds like it is a major breakthrough in helping identify the criminals that download child pornography," Irvine told AVN.com. "As long as the proper legal procedures are followed I believe this will be a great asset to law enforcement in saving children and identifying and prosecuting criminals who pose such a dire threat to children."
However hopeful, ASACP's Irvine is also realistic regarding the use of such a tracking and identification system.
"Since I don't know the details of the software, I would just err on the side of caution because we've seen other such efforts -- Operation Ore and Avalanche -- where it turned out the original access data was faulty, resulting in a number of false investigations which ruined lives and appeared to have caused a number of suicides," she said.