I-Team: Software tracks child predators

Posted at 10:10 PM, May 23, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-24 13:28:46-04

They hide in the shadows of the internet. The secret networks of child predators, undetected until now. 

The I-Team traveled to Florida for a behind the scenes look at the powerful tool helping to protect Wisconsin's children. This hi-tech tool lets law enforcement track people who are actively viewing and sharing child pornography live online. The numbers around the world, and in Wisconsin, are shocking.

Conviction after conviction in Wisconsin for child pornography - these guys are considered some of the worst of the worst.  Investigators are trying to prevent them from taking the next step.  Since the Brown County Sheriff's Office started using one of a kind technology to catch child predators, the suspects have been pouring in. 

"We have the information their computer is giving us," Lieutenant Jim Valley told us.  Over the last year in Wisconsin, this high-tech tool has tracked more than 1,500 computers with pictures and videos of children being sexually abused. 

"We're just scratching the surface, and that's all we can handle right now," Lt. Valley pointed out.

It's led to 100 arrests and convictions for the department. The software gives them the user's IP address.  It's enough of a lead for the lieutenant to file a subpoena to identify the person on the other side of that screen. 

"We would never know the problem within Brown County, or within the state of Wisconsin, without those tools."

The software was developed by The Child Rescue Coalition, or C.R.C., in Boca Raton, Florida. 

"A lot of these individuals think that what they're doing, they're doing anonymously," Executive Vice President Bill Wiltse shared. The C.R.C. is watching the secret networks where child predators hide.  This non-profit tracks hundreds of thousands of computers every day and offers that information free to law enforcement.

"We're the ones policing these areas and showing investigators what the activity is," CEO Carly Yoost pointed out.  It's the only software in the world that can track predators, live, online. 

According to Yoost, many of these people have no criminal history, and are not on law enforcement's radar. 

"Up to 85% of these guys that are viewing child pornography are not just viewing it but have actually been hands-on abusers of children."

The software Wiltse helped develop is catching many of them before they can act.  C.R.C also monitors chat networks to help identify the high risk predators, doing triage on law enforcement's behalf so they can show them the worst of the worst.

"That guy who went from a file sharing network into a chat room who's now looking for a child has escalated his behavior," Wiltse shared. 

That's what Steven Grabowski was doing back in Wisconsin.  Lt. Valley told us, "he would sit in a public place, and see what child he wanted to rape as they walked by." 

Before that could happen, Grabowski was busted for possession of child pornography and convicted.

"Without the software he would still be not on anybody's radar he would still be out there. Could he have victimized a child?  Absolutely."

The Child Rescue Coalition has trained investigators in every state and 62 countries.  The system has led to the arrest of 7,400 people and rescued 1,700 children around the world from child porn. Again, the training and software is free for law enforcement.