IMPERIAL – The Imperial County Board of Supervisors approved the District Attorney’s office request to increase funding to hire additional staff needed to handle human exploitation cases during the off-site meeting at Imperial.
The District Attorney’s office approached the Board requesting $91,929 funding for the remainder of the 2015-2016 fiscal year to hire one Deputy District Attorney, one District Attorney Investigator and one Investigative Assistant to focus solely on human exploitation cases including crimes against children, human trafficking, and commercial sexual exploitation.
The proliferation of computer technology has enhanced lives in many ways, it has also made innocent people, especially children, easy targets for sexual predators, the District Attorney’s office argued. Large numbers of young people are encountering unwanted sexual solicitation that includes being targeted by offenders seeking children for sex.
A recent research conducted by the National Center for missing and exploited children indicated that one in five children ages 10-17 receive a sexual solicitation over the internet. Only 25% of the youth who encounter a solicitation told a parent and only 40% of those reporting unwanted exposure to sexual material told a parent. According to the National Center, less than 5% of parents are aware of online sexual exploitation and even fewer believe that their child is at risk.
“The increase of findings of child pornography and child molestation in the Valley is of concern and needs to be addressed,” said Deborah Owen, Assistant District Attorney. “While investigating common criminal cases we are accidently finding evidence of child pornography.”
Owen said that in order to protect the children in our community it is essential to develop a coordinated and effective response to cyberenticement and child pornography cases that encompass forensic and investigation components, training and technical assistance, victim services, and community education.
“It is important for Imperial County to develop a collaborative strategy to address the dangers of human trafficking,” said Owen. “This collaborative approach should include raising community awareness, training law enforcement, aggressively prosecuting offenders, enhancing and supporting victim services, and promoting sustainable policy changes.”
Subsequent to a wide discussion the Board approved to fund only two of the three positions requested which include one Deputy District Attorney who will be assigned to prosecute human exploitation and trafficking cases, coordinate training for law enforcement, establish a human trafficking advisory committee and organize a community awareness program and one General Criminal Investigator that will be assigned to the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force to conduct proactive cybercrime investigations.
The District Attorney’s office will be required to report back to the Board in one year after the hiring of personnel with their findings and activities to continue its funding.