Cyber-criminals can’t hide from DPD

Published 5:07 pm Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Society’s ever-increasing dependence upon Internet communication mediums such as e-mail and social networking sites have also created other avenues for criminals to lurk.

Fortunately for citizens of Demopolis, the DPD, which is part of the Internet Crimes Against Children task force based out of Montgomery, has emerged as one of the state’s leaders in policing Internet crime, a feat the department has accomplished without having a full-time cyber crime division.

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Much of the caseload for the department’s cyber crime work falls to detective Sergeant Tim Soronen, who has been with the DPD for nearly 15 years.

“We started the cyber crimes unit back in 2006,” Soronen said. “The (district attorney) approached us about a stalking problem on the Internet.”

The department’s cyber crime capabilities allow it to do everything from tracking fugitives to catching predators.

“We do actual investigations. We can do the tracking type stuff,” Soronen said. “We do a lot of the proactive type stuff, keeping people from getting at our children.”

The department made one such arrest in October 2010 when it nabbed an Anniston man for Transmitting Obscene Material to a Child by Computer. The man contacted what he thought to be a 14-year-old girl from Demopolis, transmitting nude images of himself via webcam in the process. The man’s would-be-prey proved to be DPD officers, who traveled to Anniston to make the arrest.

“If somebody contacts a child from Demopolis and transmits elicit material or solicits them for sex, depending on the age of the child, the Alabama law allows us to travel where ever that material was sent from or sent to and arrest that person,” Soronen said.

Alabama’s cyber crime law provides Demopolis and other policing agencies a very fluid jurisdiction in its efforts to protect its young people.

The law has been shaped by years of cyber police work and numerous arrests and appeals. One such appeal stemmed from a DPD case in which John R. Baney was arrested and convicted on four counts of transmitting obscene materials to a child.

Baney appealed his conviction on the grounds that Soronen received the obscene materials rather than a teenage girl. His argument that a “mistake of fact” excused him from criminal liability did not find favor in the eyes of the state, which determined Baney’s intent was criminal. The case set an important precedent.

“We had some positive Supreme Court rulings done by this department’s case that have helped law enforcement across the state,” Soronen said.

Soronen and his cohorts have become increasingly savvy in their efforts to police internet crime, an accomplishment that has become increasingly difficult with continually-developing social networking mediums.

“It’s a very big task because, as savvy as we get with these things, those people out there preying on our children are just as savvy,” Soronen said.

“We run into some guys that are very evasive and it takes us longer to find them. But in the end, if it is done online, we can find them.”