Idaho Falls Police gets huge boost in fighting child pornography - East Idaho News
Idaho Falls

Idaho Falls Police gets huge boost in fighting child pornography

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IDAHO FALLS — Idaho Falls Police investigators will have new tools to fight child sex trafficking and abuse thanks to a $145,000 donation.

The Idaho Falls City Council recently approved the donation from Operation Underground Railroad, which includes funds for a data server for internet crimes against children investigations and a new police dog that can sniff out electronics. Such crimes are more commonly referred to as child pornography cases, which the Idaho Falls Police Department has seen a growing need for.

“There has been a real need for us with our digital forensics programs for digital storage,” IFPD Lt. John Marley said at a Sept. 23 city council meeting. “(IFPD needs this because of) … the amount of volume of the cases that we have and also the security that is needed for these child pornography cases.”

Marley explained investigators strive to protect the identity of the child victims. Having separate servers that others can’t access helps prevent unauthorized access to evidence obtained in the cases.

“We’re really grateful to have it,” Idaho Falls Police Department spokeswoman Jessica Clements said. “As difficult as these cases are this is going to be very, very useful in our efforts to protect the children in our community and our greater region and also in bringing justice to those victims.”

Clements told the dog will also help the department. In a previous child pornography case, investigators were serving a search warrant at a home and were looking for a specific phone they believed had evidence to their case.

The suspect had hidden the phone in the house and officers thought they would not be able to find it. As officers were doing one final search, the phone rang. Had the phone not made the sound, officers would not have found the device.

“If we had had the dog, it basically wouldn’t have been an issue,” Clements said. “That dog would have allowed us to find it.”

The department expects to receive the dog in spring 2022. Clements explained the dog can detect the resins and bonding materials inside electronics which helps investigators find the devices. Unlike other IFPD K9s, this dog will be single purpose, only searching for electronics and not be apprehending suspects.

“It is something we will, unfortunately, see a lot of use out of in our area,” Clements said. “When you think about it most for these internet crimes against children cases … there is also use in drug investigations and other major crimes. Most of our major crimes, major investigations, we are looking for digital evidence attached to those.”

The dog will also see use in other communities around the area when the Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce works to combat child pornography in Idaho. An IFPD detective is attached to the taskforce established by the Idaho Attorney’s General’s Office and helps with search warrants and investigations across the region.

J.C. Holt, Operation Underground Railroad director of domestic law enforcement relations, explained the organization raises awareness and understanding of human trafficking and exploitation. Holt said Operation Underground Railroad also works to empower law enforcement to fight these issues through donations like the one given to IFPD.

“We function by donation,” Holt said. “… We are out trying to harness the power of the general public and educate those that may not know the impact that human trafficking and exploitation has just across the nation and across the world. It helps us further the cause and mission to ultimately save those being trafficked and exploited … our law enforcement allies are on the front lines in that fight right now.”

When Operation Underground Railroad began working with IFPD they looked at how the department is proactive in investigating and making an impact on internet crimes against children crimes. Holt, a former law enforcement officer himself said the ICAC investigations are hard work and less glamorous than other police jobs.

“It’s pretty dark and pretty ugly and a lot of people want to say, ‘not in our community,'” Hold said. “There is a need for it there (in Idaho Falls). If we didn’t feel like there was a vetted-out need we wouldn’t have contributed the dollar amount we did to make (a) change … we look forward to the success stories.”