Cracking down on sex crimes against children

RICHLAND, Wash. -- Action News is digging into some of the darkest aspects of law enforcement: sex crimes against children on the Internet. A handful of local detectives are assigned to work these cases. We learned more about how they track down these dangerous criminals with the click of a button.

It appears to be your average desk job, but the work that's being done on certain detectives' computers is far from normal. Richland Police Detective Bob Benson handles local cases that involve sex crimes against children, and he has all the gizmos and gadgets to do it. RPD got the initial equipment five years ago, and has added to it ever since. Detective Benson has access to multiple computers and hard drives galore. They're tools to crack the most heinous cases, like the selling or solicitation of child pornography.

He gets tips from the regional 'Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force' based out of Seattle. Websites can also report suspicious material. It's then Detective Benson's job to get a search warrant for phones or computers and work the case.

Sometimes, he takes over online profiles of victims to get more information on a suspected predator. We asked how he'd respond to those who consider that method to be entrapment.

"They've already committed some crimes, and we're just trying to further that investigation," added Detective Benson.

"With the NSA and the invasion of privacy, you know, that's something that is really hard," said Angie Smith.

Kennewick Mom Angie Smith is hesitant about police gathering intel electronically, except when it's absolutely necessary.

"Unless they know for a fact they are communicating with minors and trying to hurt them," said Smith.

It's a goal shared by local police to keep our children safe. Police add that teamwork across all local agencies is key. Departments across the region assign detectives to these cases. Some officials also hope to add more resources to investigate these cases in the future.