The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office cybercrime task force conducted a total of 73 online child exploitation investigations in 2019.

The sheriff’s office is a member agency of the Missouri Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and one of 10 cybercrime task force agencies in the state of Missouri.

Franklin County entered into an agreement in 2012 with St. Charles County, a grant holder of the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) grant for the state of Missouri.

That grant funded the salary and benefits for a full-time investigator from the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office to conduct internet child exploitation investigations while detached to the St. Charles County Police Department’s Cyber Crime Task Force. Franklin and St. Charles counties continued this agreement until October 2018.

In October 2018, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office reassigned this investigator back to the sheriff’s office from the St. Charles County Cyber Crime Task Force.

Prop P Funding

After the passage of Prop P, a half-cent sales tax with a portion funding local law increment, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office was able to fund the salary for this investigator to conduct internet child exploitation investigations on a full-time basis out of the sheriff’s office in Union.

As a member Missouri ICAC, the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office’s multi-jurisdictional cybercrime task force conducts child exploitation investigations reported in Franklin, Gasconade, Maries and Osage counties and provides forensic analysis of electronic devices for criminal investigations.

In addition to the 73 cases investigated last year, the task force also performed internet safety presentations as a part of its community outreach.

In October of 2019, the sheriff’s office was able to assign a new second investigator to the cybercrime task force to alleviate the growing workload on the single investigator. That position also was made possible by Prop P funding.

“The Franklin County Sheriff’s Office has always been dedicated in protecting our children but when perpetrators utilize the internet to exploit children the investigations can become more challenging for law enforcement to identify the perpetrator,” Sheriff Steve Pelton said.

Conducting online child exploitation investigations requires specially trained law enforcement personnel to identify, locate and arrest these online perpetrators.

“Without the Prop P funding, the sheriff’s office could not afford to dedicate full-time personnel to investigate online child exploitation,” Pelton said. “Using Prop P funding toward combating the growing epidemic of children being exploited online is a noble cause that the citizens of Franklin County can be proud of supporting.”

The sheriff said he would like to thank the public for the support in protecting the youth and the detectives working the cases to ensure the safety of children.

To report the online exploitation of children, contact the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office or make a report with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at its cyber tip line, report.cybertip.org, which will be forwarded to your local cybercrime task force.