Donation Allows for Online Child Abuse Investigator

By Beacon Staff

A donation from a Whitefish philanthropist will allow Flathead County to hire its first full-time detective dedicated to investigating Internet crimes against children.

Mike Goguen, who has donated millions of dollars to various projects in the Flathead Valley, recently committed $2 million over the next five years to the Montana Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) to help combat online predators.

In Flathead County, that means having the first full-time investigator looking into these crimes, according to Sheriff Chuck Curry.

Before this position, the sheriff’s office made overtime funding available for the few trained detectives on staff to work Internet investigations. The Flathead County Sheriff’s Office has participated in many ICAC investigations, Curry said, but the county needs its own investigator due to the sheer amount of cases here.

“The volume of these crimes and the volume of child porn cases uncovered has been ever increasing,” Curry said. “(The donation) is certainly good news for kids in the community.”

Goguen, a managing partner in a venture capital group that has invested in Google, Yahoo!, YouTube and other technology businesses, said he wanted to make the investment to help protect Montana’s children from the worst the Internet has to offer.

“Child predators are the worst kind of criminals,” Goguen said in a prepared statement. “I’m thrilled to have the chance to help put as many of them away as possible to make Montana the safe and incredible (place) it should be for raising kids.”

In a statement, Goguen said his background in high-tech business has given him a first-hand look at the power of the Internet, and that he is “deeply disturbed when that immense power for good is used to exploit the most innocent and vulnerable segment of the population – our children.”

The Montana ICAC task force was formed in 2007 under a grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. Last year, ICAC conducted two proactive undercover operations that resulted in the arrest of 14 people seeking to sexually exploit Montana children.

These crimes continue to increase as children are getting online earlier and earlier in life, according to ICAC Task Force director Tim West.

“Even though our people work hard, around the clock, to protect Montana’s young and vulnerable, we’ve been having a hard time keeping up with online predators,” West wrote in a statement. “This very generous donation will allow us to bolster training, equipment, overtime and operational expenses.”

The task force’s goal is to educate people using the Internet to do so in a safe and responsible way, as well as enforcing federal and state laws governing the use of the Internet.

ICAC also works to prosecute those responsible for exploiting children, and young men and women in Montana.

For more information on ICAC, visit www.mticac.org.

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