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Date: September 29, 2008
By: Juana Summers
State Capitol Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - The Republican candidate for attorney general, Mike Gibbons, announced Monday in Columbia a proposal for a new Cyber Crimes Unit in the Attorney General's office.  Gibbons said the new office would work to protect children from Internet predators, as well as decrease the number of online-based crimes in the state.

Gibbons' proposal would create a team of one lawyer, two investigators and a computer forensics expert to work together when Internet crimes arise.  This team would then work with the pre-existing regional task forces and law enforcement agencies.

But Gibbons' opponent for the attorney general's seat, Chris Koster, said the state doesn't need creation of a new Cyber Crimes Unit because the state already has one.

In 2001, Nixon established a cybercrimes initiative under the Internet 2000 crime bill, which targeted fighting different areas of Internet crime.

"The unit exists, and Sen. Koster will make sure that the attorney general's office aggressively prosecutes cyber crimes with existing unit that and resources in place," Danny Kanner, spokesman for the Koster campaign said.

Gibbons called Internet crime a "21st century threat," and said that individuals who use the Internet as a weapon are "very sophisticated operators."

He said that with the increasing popularity and use of the Internet in homes, there were more opportunities for individuals to use the Internet as a weapon. 

Joe Laramie, director of the Missouri Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, said that the number of arrests for these types of crimes have increased over the past three years, as more law enforcement agencies have targeted Internet crime.

"Our investigative techniques do indicate that there are potentially thousands of predators and people who share child pornography on the Internet," said Joe Laramie, director of the Missouri Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

Gibbons said he wants the new division to be operational by his first day in office, if he were to be elected Missouri's attorney general.  But he didn't have an estimate as to how much the new unit would cost the state.

"We want to have a team ready to go and mobilize at any time," Gibbons said. "We're hoping to do it with existing personnel."

Gibbons also traveled to Kansas City, Joplin and Springfield Monday to discuss his plans for this unit.

The Cyber Crimes Unit would also create a tip line so that citizens could turn in information to law enforcement agencies easier.

Creating an office in the Office of the attorney general, Gibbons said, would help centralize communication between regional task forces and create a hub for dealing with these sorts of crimes.

"The theory is that everyone should be communicating and sharing resources," Laramie said.  "The whole purpose of having this task force system is so we know who to call."

Local agencies like the Mid-Missouri Internet Crimes Task Force, located in Boone County, that receive state funding toward their operation, would then have another ally in the fight to end Internet crime. But the new Cyber Crimes Unit could also aid smaller counties without resources to target this type of crime specifically.

"This could help us quite a bit in some of these counties that don't have quite the resources that Boone County does," said Detective Andy Anderson, coordinator of the Mid-Missouri Internet Crimes Task Force.  The Mid-Missouri Internet Crimes Task Force focuses on Internet crimes against children.

Anderson said that Gibbons' wider scope could help make the state safer.

"I think we've proven that on Internet crimes and a few other crimes, quite frankly, that the task force methodology is the best and most productive way of investigating these crimes."


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