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Internet crimes task force requires skills, cooperation, community education


MADISON, WI (WSAU) -  Last week, Wisconsin’s Department of Justice teamed up with Everest Metro Police Officers to arrest a man for possession of child pornography on his computer. You might wonder, “How do they find these people?” The answer is the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, or ICAC.

Department of Justice investigator Jennifer Price says ICAC is a group of law enforcement and non-law enforcement partners around the state that investigate online crimes and give internet safety presentations to children, parents, and teachers.

Price says once they locate on offender, they have to gather evidence, and there’s a special team that does that. “We have a computer forensics unit, with computer forensics analysts who are dedicated to do nothing but analyze computers. The bulk of their work is forensic analysis of computers on child exploitation cases. She says they often have to extract data that is hard to recover, such as deleted files that may have recoverable traces.

Price says they partner with police departments and sheriff’s departments, but they work with other groups to outside of law enforcement, too such as the Wausau Boys and Girls Club. “While it’s important to investigate and prosecute the crimes, really the first step is education and prevention, and that’s where our Boys and Girls Clubs come in.”

The ICAC both proactive and reactive with its investigations. Price says they will follow leads they develop, and they engage in undercover operations to find predators. They also have to follow up on a large number of complaints that are called in. “When we are able to identify an individual who is participating in the distribution of or possession of child pornography, we will often partner with our local law enforcement agencies to assist in the investigation, all the way up to the search warrant and the arrest of the offender.”

The ICAC Task Force was formed in 1998. The agencies and partners working together have made over 800 arrests since 2005 and assisted in educating parents, children, and youth groups about the dangers on the Internet.As for that recent arrest the task force made with the Everest Metro Police Department, 26-year-old Zachary M. Covella has a preliminary hearing Tuesday in Marathon County court before Judge Greg Grau. He’s facing two counts of possessing child pornography.That hearing starts at 11:45 a.m.