BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – Fort Madison’s new police chief is hitting the ground running. And one of the things he’s running at is Internet crime.
Chief Tim Sittig is in the process of setting up an affiliation with the Iowa Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force that will eventually train and equip a Fort Madison police officer to more effectively investigate and prosecute those types of crimes.
The program is based on federal grant funding through the Department of Justice. Affiliates with the program get reimbursed expenses associated with training and possibly some equipment and then have access to the state office in Ankeny in collecting tips on potential crimes and getting help in solving them.
“The best way I can describe it is it’s a federally funded program through the DOJ. They grant funds to all the states to set up task forces to monitor and investigate Internet crimes against children. The acronym is ICAC,” Sittig said Monday morning.
“State of Iowa has one that is managed through the Department of Criminal Investigations at Ankeny. They have agreements with agencies throughout the state to be affiliate investigative entities for ICAC.”
Sittig said one of his intentions in coming from Pleasant Hill was to try to set up a similar affiliation with ICAC in Fort Madison because he looked and found no connection in Lee County.
“When I was in Pleasant Hill we were an affiliate but never had anyone assigned to it, so I assigned an officer to be the affiliate investigator. Along with that comes a lot of training and the opportunity to get equipment to investigate claims. While the focus is on trafficking of Internet child pornography, it also allows us to investigate other crimes that are electronic in nature,” Sittig said.
“I checked here and there is not an affiliate in Lee County, so I thought this is something we can start and get going here. We’ve had contact with the agency head in Ankeny and they’re looking forward to having someone down here,” he said.
According to the Iowa ICAC website, the state agency monitors electronic files that may be indicative of illegal trafficking. Sittig said if the agency gets a call in a certain area, in this case Fort Madison, they can contact the affiliate and give them a heads up and start the investigation.
“This allows them to spread their investigative fingers out because now there is someone here who can follow up on it,” he said. “We’re in the process of identifying the officer to do it here and we haven’t done that. Once we do, we would sign a memorandum of understanding with ICAC and this will provide us the opportunity to send that person to specialized training with computers cellphones, Internet messaging that kind of stuff.”
He plans on having the program up and running by the middle of the spring.
The funds used for the training are part of a yearly budget from the DOJ, but Sittig said the work itself will be part of a regular officer’s duties at the outset. He said with the rise in Internet crime, the position has a potential to be full-time position to follow up on everything, but after the affiliation is set up it would be absorbed into the current structure and be part-time.
“As you know crimes on electronic sources are just exploding. Identity theft, harassment, on a more national level – terrorism… and law enforcement is struggling to keep up with that. This is an opportunity for us to kind get out in front of those types of things.”
Sittig also indicated that even though the program is aimed at tracking predatory activity, it has also had some impact on the other Internet crimes as well. But the biggest impact will come after a couple of successful prosecutions.
“It doesn’t take long, once we get a few successful prosecutions the word gets out and then it becomes more of a deterrent.”
The ICAC Task Forces are funded by a grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Iowa’s ICAC Task Force has been administered through the Iowa Department of Public Safety; Division of Criminal Investigation since its inception in the spring of 2004. The federal ICAC program began in September of 1998.