Unique Characteristics of Cybercrimes

Several characteristics distinguish Internet crimes from other crimes committed against children:

Physical contact between the child and the perpetrator does not need to occur for a child to become a victim or for a crime to be committed.
Innocent pictures or images of children can be digitally transformed into pornographic material and distributed across the Internet without the victims’ knowledge.

The Internet provides a source for repeated, long-term victimization of a child that can last for years, often without the victim’s knowledge. Once a child’s picture is displayed on the Internet, it can remain there forever. Images can stay on the Internet indefinitely without damage to the quality of the image.

These crimes transcend jurisdictional boundaries, often involving multiple victims from different communities, states, and countries. The geographic location of a child is not a primary concern for perpetrators who target victims over the Internet. Often, perpetrators travel hundreds of miles to different states and countries to engage in sexual acts with children they met over the Internet. Many of these cases involve local, state, federal, and international law enforcement entities in multiple jurisdictions.

Many victims of Internet crimes do not disclose their victimization or even realize that they have been victims of a crime. Whereas children who experience physical or sexual abuse may disclose the abuse to a friend, teacher, or parent, many victims of Internet crimes remain anonymous until pictures or images are discovered by law enforcement during an investigation. The presumed anonymity of Internet activities often provides a false sense of security and secrecy for both the perpetrator and the victim.

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Internet Crimes Against Children
December 2001