COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - Attorney General Henry McMaster announced Friday that the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force has now arrested two hundred suspected Internet child predators since the Criminal Solicitation of a Minor law was passed in April 2004.
McMaster made the announcement amid a host of law enforcement officers representing a number of the law enforcement agencies that have joined the task force since 2005.
"This milestone in our fight against Internet child predators in South Carolina is a testament to the professionalism and dedication of the seventy-seven law enforcement officers in the state that work in daily cooperation with each other to make this task force a success," said McMaster.
"However, this day highlights a very dangerous problem in our state - that adults are constantly on the Internet seeking to harm our children. No matter how many predators are caught in our sting operations, we are confident that there are scores of children hurt that we never now anything about. For those cases to go without prosecution is a terrible shame."
With the leadership of Rep. Murrell Smith of Sumter, McMaster's Criminal Solicitation of a Minor law passed quickly through the Legislature and became law in April 2004. The law carries a 10-year prison sentence. Agents of the State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) initially provided all of the investigative work on the Internet Task Force.
In 2005, McMaster sought to expand the task force to include local law enforcement agencies. To date, 55 law enforcement agencies across the state have joined the Task Force. In all, 77 law enforcement officers are associated with the task force through these member agencies.
Through a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, the Attorney General's Office provides training for officers from each member agency, as well as computer equipment needed to conduct the undercover Internet sting operations. The first of the member agencies' officers began completing their training by March 2006, meaning the bulk of these arrests have come in the last four ears.
The Attorney General's Office has prosecuted 142 of the individuals arrested, resulting in 139 guilty pleas and 3 guilty findings by jury.
McMaster stressed that all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until they are proven guilty in a court of law.