The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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November 11, 2013

State Police seek more personnel for child crimes

Officials say they can’t keep up with case load

HUNTINGTON — West Virginia State Police officials say they need more manpower to combat child pornography and Internet sexual predators.

The State Police digital forensics lab at Marshall University in Huntington has two civilian analysts and a six-month backlog of cases. A similar lab in Morgantown has one civilian analyst and a 14-month backlog.

State police officials recently met at the Huntington lab with members of the Legislature’s Select Committee on Crimes Against Children to inform the lawmakers about the need for more staff, The Dominion Post reported.

Sgt. Dave Eldrige told the lawmakers that the State Police Crimes Against Children Unit conducted 665 investigations in 2012 and made 197 arrests.

“It’s just the material they consume to hold themselves over until they can get their hands on a new kid,” Eldridge said. “It feeds their fantasy and it feeds the sex drive to go out there and rape and torture a child.”

Children don’t talk, so the unit’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force works backward from forensics gleaned by investigations to find the traffickers and molesters, and the discover the victims.

“I find the kids who are silent forever who will never talk, will never disclose,” Eldrige said.

In a recent case, a Morgantown man tried to hire a baby-sitter who would also perform sexual favors. He was sentenced earlier this month to two to 10 years in prison for soliciting a minor online. The 15-year-old girl he had been communicating with was actually a task force officer.

Investigating these cases takes a toll on troopers and the agency tries to rotate them to other duties for breaks. They also have to speak to a victim specialist a minimum of twice a year.

“That’s why we need more manpower,” said 1st Lt. D.L. Frye, commander of the Crimes Against Children Unit. “We would love to be a lot more proactive than we are. We don’t have the people to do it. We can’t keep up with what we’re trying to do now, let alone be proactive.”

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