Bill aims to create permanent funding line to investigate, prosecute sexual exploitation of children

TULSA - State Sen. Dan Newberrry R-Tulsa has introduced legislation that would create a permanent line of funding to investigate and prosecute the sexual exploitation of children in Oklahoma.

Senate bill 1002, as it's referred to in Oklahoma City, would levy a $10 fee for any person convicted of a misdemeanor or felony in the state. That money would be collected and used to fund agencies fighting the sexual exploitation of children like the Internet Crimes Against Children task force.

According to Jason Weis with The Demand Project, an agency that provides funding to law enforcement and is focused on preventing, educating and treating the sexual exploitation of children in Oklahoma, the ICAC receives 1,500 cases of child pornography and child sex crimes every day.

"Steve Tanner, director of Internet Crimes Against Children task force, says at any given moment in the State of Oklahoma, there's upwards of between 1,500 and 2,000 computers that are downloading or trading child pornography in the State of Oklahoma," said Weis.

Three officers at the ICAC, which is federally funded, are dedicated to fighting those crimes. If SB 1002 is passed, Newberry and Weis estimate that $3 - $5 million could be raised in the first year to supplement the funding and to provide more dollars for officers, prosecution, forensic equipment to combat child porn and money for increased victim's assistance.

"Oklahoma should be safe for children, and these people should be put on notice that when they come out and they do these kinds of works and these kinds of actions against children, we're going to come after them and find them," said Newberry.

Some of the money will also go to treat the officers working these cases, who, according to Newberry, are switched out of these posts after 18 months because of the graphic nature of the content.

"The officers, according to the [Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation], an officer can spend 18 months working on this type of caseload. They become intimately involved with the family, with the victims, the court proceedings. And after about 18 months, they have to take them off of the casework and put them on homicides to give them a break," he said.

According to Weis, the number of people involved in the trade of child porn who are also committing violent sex acts on children is staggering.

"Forty percent of the people who are arrested for child pornography are hands-on offenders. So they are actually raping children. That's a conservative estimate," he said.

SB 1002 is out of Senate committees and could be heard on the Senate floor next week.

Newberry said the bill is receiving bipartisan support.

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