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Child pornography: Who are the perpetrators?

Local News

SALT LAKE COUNTY, Utah (ABC4 News) – In part one of our special report: Utah’s Child Pornography Problem, we took you on the front lines to witness the battle first hand. In part two we tell you who the perpetrators are and profile a special agent who has the difficult job of tracking them down.

Sete Aulai is a special agent with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. His job is to follow the digital footprint left behind by those who possess, distribute and produce child pornography. 

“It can be someone from a clergyman down to a guy living in his mom’s basement, to a CEO, to a school teacher or a cop. It doesn’t surprise me at all,” he said.

Aulai must also look at the evidence — thousands of disturbing images involving innocent children.

“It’s bad,” Aulai said, while shaking his head. “It’s some of the most dark and evil things that you could come across.”

“I see things that their loved ones or people very, very close to them would never know that that was there,” Aulai added.

Agent Aulai has been in law enforcement for almost a decade and has worked with ICAC for the last three years.

“These are all the offenders that I’ve investigated, and charges have been filed against them,” Aulai told ABC4’s Brittany Johnson, while pointing to dozens of mugshots plastered to his office door.

“This is not a wall that you want to end up on?” asked Johnson.

“No, you do not want to be on this wall!” Aulai replied.

His goal is to stop adding new offender to his wall of shame.

“Do you ever think there will be a day where you’re out of a job?” Johnson asked.

“No. Honestly? No. This kind of behavior — I don’t see it going away anytime soon, unfortunately,” replied Aulai.

The work is emotionally challenging and daunting at times but Aulai, who played center for the Brigham Young University football team says protecting children is what he was born to do.

“As an offensive lineman, those five guys, it’s their job to protect the running back, protect the quarterback, so we can get a touchdown. My job as an investigator for ICAC is to protect those kids so they can sleep well. That’s their version as a touchdown. My job is to keep those linebackers, those corners, those defensive linemen away from these kids. And I’m OK to do that.”

The question now becomes, “who is committing these unspeakable crimes?”

Possession of child pornography 

White – 77.9%

Hispanic – 15.4%

Black – 3.2%

Source: US Sentencing Commission

Receipt of Child Pornography

White – 86.3%

Hispanic- 7.5%

Black – 5.4%

Source: US Sentencing Commission

Distribution of child pornography

White – 81.9%

Hispanic 12.6%

Black – 3.8%

Source: US Sentencing Commission

Data collected by the National Children’s Advocacy Center details the relationships between child victims and perpetrators.

The link between child sex abuse and pornography is undeniable. The U.S. Department of Justice found that up to 80 percent of federal inmates incarcerated for possession, receipt or distribution of child pornography also admitted to hands-on sexual abuse of children, ranging from touching to rape.

The agents with ICAC soberly admit the problem seems insurmountable and that they cannot save all of the children, but they are fast to point out that they will not rest until they put the last perpetrator in Utah behind bars.

“I’m here. I’m listening. I’m coming. I’m trying to find you,” Aulai said.

To help bring an end to these atrocities, the ICAC team uses a tool called Project Vic.

Project Vic is a game changer for law enforcement. 

Agents can zoom in on photos and videos and pick up essential details the naked eye won’t see, which will help them identify both the victim and suspect.

“The graphics are so good — HD, retina display — software is making the graphics that good, that our software, when we analyze and dissect an image, we’re able to zoom in on an individual’s fingerprint, make a picture of that and we are able to identify a suspect with that technology,” explained Alan White, Supervisory Special Agent, Attorney General’s Office.

According to White, 24 Utah victims have been identified through Project Vic since its inception in 2011.

“Without that technology and that world-wide collaboration, I don’t think we would be at that number,” White said.

White pops up fake images on his computer monitor to show our news team how it works. 

“So, this looks like a bookshelf. A storage shelf. And then if there was abuse in this image, say that was unique, then we could search for visually similar content that has that same image.”

“You could pull out anything that’s in that image and basically draw a square around that and try to focus similar images in that same case that may contain that same item in those images as well.”

As of November 20, 2018, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children Cyber Tip Line has received over 42.9 million reports of child pornography victims, and the child victim identification program has reviewed over 267 million images and videos.

Before responding to the numbers, White takes a deep breath.

“We’re scratching the surface with those numbers. Project Vic started in 2011 and we’re up to, categorized, over 5 million files.”

Report child pornography to law enforcement by contacting the ICAC Tip Line at 801.281.1211 or your local law enforcement agency.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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