Center for Problem-Oriented Policing

Understanding Your Local Problem

The information provided above is only a generalized description of Internet child pornography. You must combine the basic facts with a more specific understanding of your local problem. Analyzing the local problem carefully will help you design a more effective response strategy.

Asking the Right Questions

The following are some critical questions you should ask in analyzing your particular problem of Internet child pornography, even if the answers are not always readily available. Your answers to these and other questions will help you choose the most appropriate set of responses later on.

Offenses

  • How many complaints relating to Internet child pornography have been investigated in your jurisdiction? What were the sources of the complaints?
  • What component or components of the problem are occurring locally—production, distribution and/or downloading?
  • Is the local problem part of a national or international Internet child pornography ring?
  • What level of severity are the pornographic images?
  • Are the pornographic images of recent child sexual abuse, or are they old images?
  • If the pornographic images are recent, can you identify the locations in which they were made, and are they local?

Victims

  • Do victims of child sexual abuse report participating or being depicted in child pornography?
  • Do victims of child sexual abuse report being shown child pornography by the offender?
  • If the pornographic images are recent, can you identify the victims and are they local?
  • Have any local children been the subjects of child pornography? If so, what physical and emotional harms did they suffer?
  • If local children have been the subjects of child pornography, how were they recruited or coerced into this activity?

Offenders

  • Do suspects arrested on child sexual abuse charges possess collections of downloaded pornography?
  • Do suspects arrested on child sexual abuse charges keep photographic records of their abusive behaviors?
  • Do suspects arrested for possessing child pornography also commit hands-on offenses against children?
  • How strong are offenders’ interests in Internet child pornography (e.g., are they recreational, at-risk, or sexual compulsive users)?
  • What level of severity of pornographic images do the offenders prefer?
  • How large are the offenders’ collections of child pornography?
  • How much time do the offenders devote to Internet child pornography?
  • What level of computer expertise do the offenders have?
  • Do the offenders network with other offenders?
  • What offender-type are the offenders—browsers, private fantasies, trawlers, non-secure collectors, secure collectors, groomers, physical abusers, producers, or distributors?
  • If the pornographic images are recent, can the perpetrators be identified, and are they local?

Computer Personnel

  • What links does the police department have with local computer personnel (repairers, ISP managers, IT technicians, etc.)?
  • Do local ISPs monitor their customers’ child pornography use?
  • Do local businesses and organizations have formal policies governing their employees’ use of the computer at work?
  • Have local computer repairers or IT technicians reported evidence of child pornography on their customers’ computers?

Community Members

  • How concerned is the public about Internet child pornography?
  • Has the police department received complaints from the public about child pornography websites?
  • Has the police department received complaints from the public about online sexual harassment of children?
  • Has the police department received complaints from the public about unauthorized photographs being taken of children in public areas?

Resources and Collaborations

  • Which component or components of the problem should be given priority by the police department—production, distribution, and/or downloading?
  • Who within the police department has computer expertise that may be useful in assisting with investigations?
  • Who in the community may provide technical advice to the police department on Internet child pornography?
  • What training is relevant for officers investigating Internet child pornography?
  • Should the police department establish a dedicated Internet child pornography unit?
  • Does the police department have links with other police departments and agencies that permit coordinated investigations of Internet child pornography?
  • How do the activities of the police department synchronize with national and international priorities and initiatives?

Measuring Your Effectiveness

Measurement allows you to determine to what degree your efforts have succeeded, and suggests how you might modify your responses if they are not producing the intended results. You should take measures of your problem before you implement responses, to determine how serious the problem is, and after you implement them, to determine whether they have been effective. (For more detailed guidance on measuring effectiveness, see the companion guide to this series, Assessing Responses to Problems: An Introductory Guide for Police Problem-Solvers.)

The following are potentially useful measures of the effectiveness of responses to Internet child pornography:

  • Reduced number of complaints from the public about Internet child pornography. Initially, you might want to see an increase in complaints from the public if you have reason to believe the problem is underreported.
  • Reduced number of child pornography sites and images on the Internet.
  • Reduced number of new child pornography images on the Internet.
  • Reduced level of severity of the child pornography images on the Internet.
  • Reduced number of images possessed by offenders who are arrested for downloading child pornography.
  • Reduced level of severity of the images possessed by offenders who are arrested for downloading child pornography.
  • Reduced level of involvement (possession, distribution, or production) of the offenders arrested for Internet child pornography crime.

Other measures are important for tracking official actions taken to address the problem. Among them are:

  • The number of offenders arrested for Internet child pornography crimes.
  • The number of victims portrayed in Internet child pornography who are identified and assisted.