When it comes to curbing Internet crime, prevention probably is the key. Kansas Attorney General Paul Morrison announced Tuesday that he would ask the Kansas Legislature for an additional $433,000 to bolster his cyber crimes unit. The funding would allow him to hire new staff to expand the office's prosecution and public education programs.
During a news conference, Morrison said, "We realize, with two people in this office covering the entire state of Kansas for Internet fraud and online solicitation, that we are literally spitting on a forest fire."
In truth, even a beefed-up AG staff would be no match for the vast potential for Internet-related crime and fraud. That's why the education component of this plan is so essential.
It's important, as Morrison noted, that cyber crimes be prosecuted. "You can have all the cyber crime task forces and units in the world, but if you can't get those cases filed and prosecuted, you haven't accomplished anything," he said. But, again, the potential for consumers or children to be victimized by illicit Internet users is so immense that teaching the public to avoid such pitfalls may be a better strategy than trying to prosecute every crime.
To that end, Morrison plans to expand the NetSmartz Internet education program operated by the Kansas Alliance of Boys and Girls Clubs by adding training in northern and western Kansas. His goal is to more than double - from 30,000 to 70,000 - the Kansans reached by this program, which is aimed at educating parents and children about the tactics used by Internet predators.
Protecting children from Internet solicitation should be the top priority of the state's efforts. Consumers who fall victim to Internet fraud also deserve attention, but the consequences of their financial losses usually pale in comparison to the devastating, even deadly, impact of people who use the Internet to lure and take advantage of innocent children.
Prosecution is essential, but the best way to protect both consumers and children is to teach them how to avoid Internet pitfalls. Morrison's proposed program expansions are a good investment of a relatively small slice of the state budget.