Pa. officials show off forensic vehicle in battle against child predators

One of two special investigations trucks from the Pennsylvania Office of the Attorney General used to intake evidence at the scene of crimes that involve child predators. (Photo by Dan Clark/Times Herald)

UPPER PROVIDENCE - Pennsylvania Attorney General Kathleen Kane showed off a new forensic vehicle in Upper Providence on Wednesday following a roundtable discussion with local law enforcement on how to best stay on top of and capture child predators in the commonwealth.

'The exploitation of our sons and daughters is running rampant in this nation,' Kane said. 'In Pennsylvania, thanks to broad based cooperative efforts you see by the group assembled behind me, we are determined to lead the nation in doing something about this problem.'

One of those tools is a new forensic truck that investigators can use on the scene to track child predators and intake evidence quickly.

The forensic truck shown on Wednesday is one of two in the commonwealth used by state prosecutors to track child predators who are traveling to meet their victims. The technology in the truck can track alleged predators and process evidence within hours of the initial intake. Investigators can also use the truck to interview suspects, witnesses and victims in a controlled environment without having to leave the scene of the crime.

'The turnaround time for evidence now is not six to eight months, it is three to four hours,' Kane said. 'We can now make that arrest within three to four hours and we never have to leave the scene of the crime.'

The truck shown on Wednesday is one of two in operation in the state. The trucks can also be loaned out to state police, local police and the district attorney's office.

Before the news conference on Wednesday, Kane and other prosecutors held a closed door round table discussion on how to best tackle the problem of child predators together.

'The explosion of the Internet and a whole new set of technological tools - things that have advanced our society - have also armed these predators with frightening new capabilities. They no longer need to hide behind locked doors or darkened windows. They don't need to lurk around the corner in a paneled van. Today they hide behind online pictures of young girls and young boys,' Kane said.

State Sen. John Rafferty, R-44th Dist., said when Kane first came into office, she met with him and state Rep. Mike Vereb, R-150th Dist., on ways to tackle the growing problem of child predators.

'At a time when the budget was very lean, Attorney General Kane had some specific ideas for these mobile crime units with updated equipment that would now challenge and take on the child predators and other instruments of crime right here on the crime scene to make sure we catch these individuals and stop them from praying on our children,' Rafferty said.

'These predators are the creeps of our society. Unfortunately, some of them end up as coaches. Unfortunately, some of them end up in trusted positions that, as parents, we send our kids to participate in programs,' Vereb said. 'It's important not just to invest the money in physical equipment and support our law enforcement efforts to get these creeps off the road, but it's just as important to pass legislation that ultimately creates laws that our law enforcement can use.

'We constantly find ourselves in competition in keeping one day, one hour, one minute ahead of these creeps,' Vereb added.

Rafferty, Vereb and other state legislators helped to secure $300,000 for the trucks.

Montgomery County Commissioner and former district attorney Bruce Castor said it is a large upgrade from what investigators used to use and the turnaround time will lead to more arrests and prevent further crime from occurring.

'Back in the day, we used to have to send it to the FBI and now we have mobile command posts and we have centers for experts and a lot of good equipment,' he said.

Castor said the issue investigators faced years ago was waiting for the evidence to return and not taking a predator off the street as soon as possible.

'What wasn't mentioned is while you're analyzing the data the bad guy is still out there and still preying on kids,' Castor said. 'Compressing that time not only leads to swifter convictions, but getting the guy off the streets so he can't do it again sooner.'

At the press conference Kane said since she took office in January 2013, the attorney general's office has arrested 216 child predators. Since the beginning of 2014, 104 alleged child predators have been arrested. This summer, Kane said the attorney general's office arrested six defendants who thought they were going to meet young children 'for the purposes of engaging in heinous, sexual acts.'

'I promise you, we are just beginning,' Kane said.

Information from the Times Herald,

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