Internet Crimes Against Children
As remarkable as the Internet is, the "information superhighway" holds hidden dangers for children. Just as there are good and bad places to go in any city or community, there are good and bad places to go on the Internet.
Most children do not understand the online risks, and few parents are sufficiently familiar with them and/or Internet technology to effectively guard against them. Yet, this is a problem that must be addressed, since more and more children use the Internet for safe, legitimate purposes.
This requires unprecedented collaboration and cooperation between government entities (including law enforcement agencies), the Internet industry, schools, corporations, families, and others. Broad access to quality content on the Internet must be a community priority, where all involved identify and implement appropriate solutions.
Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force
To address these problems more effectively, a federally funded Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force has been established. The Task Force, located at State Police Division Headquarters in Albany, joins the New York State Police, the New York State Attorney General's Office, and the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services in an effort to combat Internet crimes against children. Members in the investigative, legal, analytical, and community outreach fields combine their efforts in order to arrest, prosecute, educate, and ultimately prevent crimes against children that are perpetrated via the Internet.
The criminal justice system cannot do this alone
Although the federal program gives state and local law enforcement agencies the tools to conduct investigations to protect children from crimes involving the Internet, your help is needed.
To help this task force attack Internet crime against children, we are asking you to report any information or suspicions you may have. If you believe a child is being victimized, please report it by calling the Task Force's toll-free 24-hour help line at 1-877-474-KIDS (5437) or your nearest police agency.
What are the Crimes?
The following crimes often involve the use of computers and/or the Internet. If you encounter any of this kind of activity, you should report it to the police:
Disseminating Indecent Material to Minors
Anyone who communicates with a minor via a computer, either by transmitting indecent images (pornography), or by engaging the minor in explicitly obscene "chat" conversation, and by doing so solicits a real-life sexual encounter, is committing the crime of Disseminating Indecent Material to Minors.
Keep in mind that this crime does not involve the mere transmitting of pornography or engaging in sexually explicit conversation. In order for this statute to apply, there must be a solicitation for a real-life sexual encounter. The transmission of pornographic images may, however, be in violation of other crimes, as described below.
Also keep in mind that the real-life contact does not have to take place in order for this crime to apply. The mere solicitation or persuasion of a minor to have a real-life meeting is all that is required. Your child does not have to actually meet with the person before the police can take action.
Sexual Performance by a Child
These are New York's "child pornography" statutes. The "sexual performance by a child" is defined as actual sexual activity performed by the child, or "lewd exhibition." There are two laws dealing with the sexual performance of a child:
Possession of the Sexual Performance by a Child - If a person possesses images of a child less than 16 years old engaged in sexual activity or "lewd exhibition," they are guilty of the possession of the sexual performance by a child. This includes photographs, books, periodicals, movies and computer image files.
Promoting the Sexual Performance by a Child - If a person transmits, sells, offers, trades, or otherwise provides images of a child less than 17 years old engaged in sexual activity or "lewd exhibition," they are guilty of promoting the sexual performance by a child. The most likely occurrence of this conduct is via E-mail, posting images to computer bulletin boards, newsgroups, the web, etc.
Keep in mind that since the law is very specific about sexual conduct or "lewd exhibition," images that simply contain nudity ("nature" pictures) are not considered child pornography in New York State. Also note that the age of a child is defined in New York State less than 16 (or 17) years of age.
Endangering the Welfare of a Child
"Endangering the welfare of a child" means acting in any manner that is likely to be injurious to the physical, mental, or moral welfare of a child. As you can see, some conduct that might not meet the criteria of the crimes listed above may still be conduct that is likely to be injurious to the child's physical, mental, or moral welfare. If you come across any conduct while you or your child is online that you feel is harmful to children, you should contact the police for further guidance.