PINE BELT (WDAM) - In the last 12 months, two dozen people have been arrested in Mississippi for cyber crimes involving children, and seven of those suspects were arrested in the Pine Belt.
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood said his Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force is always scanning the internet for potential predators.
"We're not keeping any secrets," Hood said. "Thing is, we are going to catch you if you are downloading child porn."
There have been 24 arrests and 31 convictions in the last twelve months in Mississippi, according to the Attorney General's Office. Those statistics are from July 1, 2016 to June 30, 2017. Charges include exploitation of a child, child sex trafficking and distribution of child pornography.
"These images that people are downloading of child pornography, when you see us make an arrest, it is of a child that is per-pubescent, usually below the age of 11," Hood said. "So there is no question that it is not some young girl who they thought was 18 or something."
"Those images go through the pipeline of the internet and are identified through a hash value," Hood said. "We work with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and its reported to us it went to this IP address. Once we get the IP address, we send a subpoena to the internet provider for the actual service address and go knock on the door, it's simple."
According to the 2016 Annual Report for the Attorney General's Office, 158 new cases were opened by the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, resulting in twelve convictions. Officials analyzed approximately 65,728 GB of data, including 65 computers, 80 cellular devices, 16 floppy disks, 44 other external media and 128 optical disks.
Hood said his office has seen a 28% decrease in budget in the last two years, with fees from criminal citations still being collected, but no longer going to the Attorney General's Office.
"We're going to be struggling to provide those services because the legislature didn't fund them," Hood said. "We're stretched out, we are going to continue to do our job."
More than 12.7 million reports of suspected child sexual exploitation have been made to the CyberTipline between 1998 and June 2016, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Members of the public are encouraged to report information regarding possible child sexual exploitation to the CyberTipline. Tips can also be submitted by calling 1-800-843-5678.