Child pornography aided by the Internet is a growing problem in Kansas, the state's top federal prosecutor said Thursday.
U.S. Atty. Eric Melgren announced that 15 people, including an Ottawa man, recently had been indicted for possessing child pornography or traveling across state lines to engage in sex with a minor. Melgren said he announced the cases as a group to help draw attention to the issue.
He said thousands of new images appeared on the Internet each week depicting a "nightmarish world" of children being forced to perform sex acts for adults' gratification. The number of child-pornography cases filed by Melgren's office each year has tripled in the past four years, from 10 in 2000 to 30 so far this year, he said.
"The Internet is making our children more vulnerable," he said in a prepared statement. "A new breed of sexual predator is prowling the Internet, lurking in chat rooms where children and teenagers congregate. He's more than a hunter. He is a provider. He produces and distributes the child pornography that collectors feed upon."
According to Melgren's figures, one in five children ages 10 through 17 has received an unwanted sexual solicitation online. He said investigators thought child-pornography collectors were more likely than others to molest children.
He suggested that parents who want to learn more about keeping their children safe go to www.cybertipline.com.
The 52-year-old Ottawa man whose case was included in the list of indictments is charged with one count of possession of child pornography.
According to the indictment, on July 20, 2004, he possessed more than 600 images of child pornography on his computer, including sexually explicit images of prepubescent minors.
If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
The Journal-World's policy is not to identify suspects in sex crimes unless they've been convicted.