Bedford sheriff tracks local computers for child porn

You're on notice, Charlottesville Internet file swappers– the Bedford County sheriff's department may be watching you.

According to Sheriff Mike Brown (left), who directs the federally funded Southern Virginia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, his office has monitored the hard drives of thousands of Virginians sending or receiving child pornography, including 243 in Charlottesville. (There's a Northern Virginia operation of the same name, but Brown's task force handles Southern and Central Virginia.)

Brown says 20,000 computers statewide are swapping child porn files, and he ranks Charlottesville in the top 20, ahead of Lynchburg (139) and Blacksburg (121), but behind Roanoke (406), and nowhere close to the state leader, Virginia Beach, with nearly 2,000. Nationally, Virginia ranks 8th in child pornography consumption across the Internet, he says.

"It's epidemic," says Brown. "There have been 217,000 file transfers of child pornography in Virginia over the last two years. And that's probably only a fraction of it. And remember, some of those files contain a lot of material, photos, videos of children as young as five or six, diapers being removed."

Since 1997, Brown's cyberspace patrol, under the code name Operation Blue Ridge Thunder, has been using tracking software that can identify the computers of people who swap child porn files on the Internet, which leaves a "digital fingerprint."

"From the first key stroke, everything is recorded," says Brown. "We're not Dateline. We have to follow strict guidelines from the Department of Justice about how we monitor people, and it can take months to build a case."

Indeed, Operation Blue Ridge Thunder is part of a national effort coordinated by the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention at the Department of Justice, which funds 56 operations across the country.

Brown says they've had a 100 percent conviction rate, with 90 convictions so far.

Last May, the Hook reported on former Albemarle girl's soccer coach Raja Charles Jabbour's nine year sentence for soliciting sex with a minor online and for possessing hundreds of sexually explicit images of children, a high-profile bust that garnered the Bedford task force unprecedented attention from local media. The local child porn convictions didn't end there. Kevin Strom, founder of a white supremacist organization called the National Vanguard, pleaded guilty to child porn charges in January– but he was nabbed by his wife.

Yesterday, Brown was in Richmond to help support a new child porn bill being introduced by Del. Brian Moran (D-Alexandria), which would have provided $9.5 million in funding for cyber-patrols, including $1.5 million to hire state prosecutors "dedicated exclusively" to prosecuting child exploitation crimes. However, the bill was tabled in a House of Delegates appropriations subcommittee due to a lack of available funding. According to one news report, descriptions of the materials found by officers were "beyond X-rated."

According to Brown, it's a lonely, sometimes psychologically taxing job being a cyber-patroller, especially when you're having to watch child porn all day.

"Our officers go to counseling once a year," says Brown, "but it should probably be more than once. It's hard on some officers, especially those with children. I've had officers come to me and say, 'I just can't do this anymore.'"

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10 comments

Yes, CVille Eye. They are.

But do you think any of them would ever publicly admit it? :)

Sick,
You hate police officers so much. Even when there is story about how they are trying to help their communities you find a way to bad mouth them. I bet in real life you're one of those people who call the police all the time. Always whining about how your neighbor's dog is to loud, wanting to know why you got a ticket even though you agree you were in the wrong and the violation was true. I bet you call the police more than any blogger on here. I get the feeling you're just waiting to snitch on someone right now. I believe sick of local rambos is a hypocrite. I bet you're a wannabe cop and your anger at them stems from the fact that they wouldn't hire you for whatever reason. You tried to get hired at Albemarle and Charlottesville. Both organizations shot you down so now you go to the hook website and talk smack about them everyday to make yourself feel better.

Depends on where the money comes from, Cville Eye. For example, the local agencies who receive the various grants for things such as DUI enforcement use the money to pay cops overtime. This increases each and every one of the salaries of those cops who sign up for the overtime DUI enforcement details.

As I have said many times before, law enforcement is no longer about serving and protecting the community. It's about how much their W2 forms can read at the end of the year, or how much shows up on their retirement checks. Right now, as we speak, there's already people calculating how the possibility of becoming the next city sheriff can enhance their their retirement benefits. Just like it enhanced the retirement benefits of the last 4 city sheriffs (Norford, Baird, Rittenhouse and Johnson).

"As I have said many times before, law enforcement is no longer about serving and protecting the community. It's about how much their W2 forms can read at the end of the year, or how much shows up on their retirement checks." Then they are just like the rest of us.

Wouldn't their salaries stay the same?

Am I close?

Well, you certainly proved you're not an FBI profiler. The only fact you got correct was the fact I hate crooked corrupt cops. And it just seems to be so many of them out there nowadays. If you want a second opinion, read this link on a DAILY basis...... www.badcopnews.com

There are good cops also. You consistantly complain about all cops. The website is biased due to the fact that they do show when a officer was charged with an offense. If that officer is found to be innocent then the website doesn't post anything. That is hardly fair or accurate reporting of any kind. Beware he who controls the information because it can shaped to show whatever the person reporting wants to show just like statistics.

The "epidemic" Sheriff Brown doesn't mention is the amount of cops being arrested nationwide for child porn and sex crimes against children.

Here's just one local example:

January 19, 2008

ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA - A former Fairfax County Deputy Sheriff has pleaded guilty to a receiving child pornography over the internet.

Robert A. Romero Jr., of Centreville, entered a plea Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Alexandria to one count of receipt of child pornography. He faces up to 20 years in prison when he is sentenced April 4.

According to an FBI affidavit, agents found more than 1,500 images of child pornography on Romero's home computer. Romero was trading child porn images on a popular Internet file-sharing network, the affidavit said.

Pound, VA was reported to have 53 hard drives with child porn. Pound has 1000 people; 1/4th are adult males = 250 people. Assume perverts have 1 computer each. That means 20% have child porn. I don't believe it. I believe the Task forces are fishing for more money.