Wilmington – Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden announced today that the state’s Child Predator Task Force has surpassed the 200-conviction milestone.
Biden worked with legislators, state agencies and law enforcement agencies to create the Child Predator Task Force shortly after he took office in 2007. It is the first of its kind in Delaware to be dedicated solely to identifying and arresting those seeking to prey on children.
“Nothing is more important than protecting our kids, and that’s why I promised to create a task force focused on nothing else except keeping kids safe,” Biden said. “The Child Predator Task Force brings together prosecutors, investigators and police to stop the worst of society from hurting kids. Delaware’s children are much safer because of the Task Force’s work.”
Under the supervision of State Prosecutor Kathleen Jennings and direction of Deputy Attorney General Abigail Rodgers Layton, the Task Force includes four Department of Justice investigators and nine forensic examiners (two from the Department of Justice, six from the Delaware State Police and one from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security) and two paralegals. The General Assembly approved funding in June for an additional DOJ prosecutor.
The Task Force also teams with local law enforcement agencies and the federal government when a case calls for such cooperation. The task force uses the latest technology to track the trade of child pornography images and to detect predators lurking on the Internet trying to find new victims. The Task Force investigators conduct online undercover investigations, posing as a child, to draw out predators and stop them before they can hurt another child.
“Protecting children is all of our responsibility and requires all levels of government working together,” Biden said. “Predators can use the Internet to come into the child’s home through the computer – the Child Predator Task Force stops them.”
The Task Force notched its 200th conviction in June when Paul V. Nonne, of Kenton, pled guilty to two counts of possession of child pornography and one count of dealing in child pornography. He will be sentenced Aug. 14. The Task Force has since secured three additional convictions, bringing its current total to 203.
“What do General Biden’s 200 convictions really mean for Delaware children and families? Because over half of all convicted child predators have an average of 19 actual child victims in a lifetime, it means hundreds of children rescued immediately and potentially over 3,800 future assaults prevented,” said Camille Cooper, director of legislative affairs for the National Association to Protect Children. “That’s real justice.”
In addition to the Task Force’s 201 convictions, it has also achieved the following:
- The rescue of 120 children who were either suffering abuse or being groomed for future victimization. Earlier this year, for example, the Task Force executed a search warrant as part of an investigation into the distribution of child pornography and found that there was a young boy whom the suspect had adopted. Authorities believe the suspect was sexually abusing his adopted son and have removed the child from the home and are getting him the help he needs.
- A 33-year prison sentence, the longest the Task Force has secured, handed down last Friday to John M. Figura. He was convicted in May of taking pornographic photos of children he was caring for, possessing a collection of more than 1 million images of child pornography and sexually abusing a child. Last year, a member of a Sussex County child pornography ring was sentenced to 28 years in prison after being convicted thanks to the work of the Child Predator Task Force.
- Working with members of the General Assembly to strengthen state laws protecting children and give law enforcement more tools to go after predators, including minimum mandatory sentences for the possession of child pornography and legislation this year that toughened penalties for predators who attempt to solicit victims online.
- In addition to significantly strengthening law enforcement’s work against predators, Biden has also teamed with Prevent Child Abuse Delaware and the YMCA to shine a bright light on the problem of child sexual abuse. Biden and the organizations have brought the Darkness to Light Foundation’s “Stewards of Children” training program to Delaware. Since 2011, approximately 14,000 Delawareans have been trained to know how to recognize the signs that a child is being abused and trained to understand the importance of reporting that information.
“The Child Predator Task Force is to be congratulated for their tireless work on behalf of Delaware’s children. The success that they have had apprehending sex offenders has helped to make our communities safer places for our children,” said Karen DeRasmo, Executive Director of Prevent Child Abuse Delaware. “It is equally as important to be persistent and intentional in educating, both children and adults, on how to prevent child abuse. Our collective goal, as demonstrated through our partnership around the Stewards of Children program, is to prevent abuse from ever happening in the first place.”
The Department of Justice reminds the public that Delaware law requires that any adult or organization who “knows or in good faith suspects” that a child is being abused to immediately call the state’s Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-292-9582.