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N.C. Law Enforcers Learning to Find Porn on Internet

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FAYETTEVILLE — First it was television, now the Internet. These days, kids are glued to the monitor and so are online predators. That's why police officers are learning how to stop child pornography before kids can stumble onto it.

Wednesday, two Johnston County men were arrested for alleged sexual offenses involving a 13-year-old boy. Investigators say they also found pornographic video tapes of the men having sex with the young teen.

Such videos and pictures can be found all over the internet. Police are now learning how to find it so they can stop it.

At Sampson Community College, U.S. Customs Agent John MacKinnon is teaching area investigators and school resource officers how to become cyber cops. They are learning how to look for and track the origin of child pornography on the Internet.

"People can freely pull it down," says MacKinnon. "There's not a lot of commercial gain involved in it, but the replication of pictures occurs over and over again. The proliferation of child pornography is out of control."

The proliferation of Internet porn is so out of control that the problem is worldwide. MacKinnon says 75 percent of all pornagraphic material involving children on the web is coming from other countries, but is distributed easily in small town America.

"What it is really doing is setting a standard of pace for us locally and it's now we move to a preventative mode," said J.W. Simmons of Sampson.

Police need to act because the same crimes that occur in the real world are now appearing in cyber space. The Cumberland County Sheriff's Office is preparing for the future by developing a computer fraud unit that will investigate child pornography and exploitation.

"We'll take an active role in the search for kiddy-porn, if we find something we will go ahead and investigate it and prosecute it," says Lt. Charles Phelan, computer fraud investigator.

The U.S. Customs Service has a special cyber smuggling center to investigate child pornography on the Internet. While it might seem strange to have customs involved, child pornography on the web does fall into their jurisdiction because it is distributed into and out of the country.

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Melissa Buscher, Reporter
Michael Joyner, Photographer
MJ Ainsley, Web Editor

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