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Net Force: The cyber police cracks down an illicit internet activity. (Tech Talk).

* THE FORCE WITHIN

The Internet provides for anonymous research and networking: two practical uses for time-pressed people of the information era. But the same advantages can represent danger when used by pedophiles to pray on the most vulnerable members of the population. With these concerns in mind, authorities at the Public Security Secretariat (SSP) announced in early June the creation of a special task force: the Cyber Police Unit (CPU).

Operating under the General Intelligence Coordination department of the Federal Preventive Police (PFP),the cyber patrol's job is to identify pedophilia and child-prostitution rings operating via the Web. They also have their hands full with crackdowns on hackers and the creation of Mexico's first database on known pedophiles.

According to SSP spokesperson Daniel Lee, the CPU, as one of the eight existing cyber police units in the world, cooperates with units in other countries to gather information on online child-prostitution rings.

The CPU's anti-hacker campaign includes identifying those who commit fraud, spread viruses, break into company websites, among other illegal Web activities.

* SUPPORT SYSTEM

The CPU was formed in part to spur the creation of clearcut legislation and strict laws to combat the growing threats facing young Internet users. While each state has its own laws regarding offenses committed against minors, local legislation is oftentimes weak and vague, according to sources in the CPU, and a nationwide law has not yet been established. Congress is currently discussing the most effective way to outline a federal law that would encompass all pedophile crimes, including those on the Web.

Antonio del Valle, general director of Human Rights Protection at the Public Security Secretariat, claims there is currently no coordinated national effort to combat crimes against minors, emphasizing that local legislation is not enough.

"The legislative power has not taken this problem into account, and the (existing) laws do not make an example out of punishing those who dare to harm children," del Valle told local press.

Nicolas Suarez, Intelligence coordinator for the PFP, explains that certain judicial loopholes currently allow impunity for cyber sex crimes, and also stresses the need for concrete and immediate legislation.

* THEIR OWN M.O.

Del Valle says that prosecuting Internet sex offenders is complicated because there is often no clear place to start or way to catch them. It's here where the CPU has to work its investigative magic. And so far it's made headway in identifying possible cybercrimes.

The CPU's Internet patrolling involves a research team whose responsibility it is to search the Web for possible illicit activities, as well as officers who do the leg-work in the busting process, explained the SSP's Lee to BUSINESS MEXICO.

The "most modern police force in the country," as Suarez lauds it, has already identified more than 100 Internet pages used to seduce kids into "adult activities."

But these kids aren't being snatched from their mothers' arms in the middle of shopping malls. The "kidnapping" process is far more methodical and subtle.

A kid logs on and starts playing games at a page that is ostensibly "for kids." Little by little new information and games are introduced with the intention of piquing the child's natural curiosity. The gradual progression eventually culminates in a meeting, and once physical contact has been established the kid is as good as gone.

Such was the case with three Guanajuato teenagers who, after falling into the Web-based trap of a group of sex offenders, were kidnapped and sexually abused before being forced into prostitution by their kidnappers. Luckily, the kidnappers were nabbed, marking one of the CPU's first busts.

The cyber patrol also broke up a large international pedophile network that was operating in Acapulco, Guerrero. The ring's leader, Robert Decker, is in the process of being extradited to the United States for prosecution. In this case, cross-border cooperation was crucial, putting to use the "constant exchange of information taking place between the CPU and the U.S. Customs Service," explained Lee.

With resources sophisticated enough to untangle the complicated webs of Internet crimes -- whether they involve violence against children or insidious viruses that spread uncontrollably -- the CPU is up to the challenge.

Emily Hinch is BUSINESS MEXICO'S contributing editor.
COPYRIGHT 2001 American Chamber of Commerce of Mexico A.C.
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Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:Public Security Secretariat creates Cyber Police Unit
Author:Hinch, Emily
Publication:Business Mexico
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1MEX
Date:Sep 1, 2001
Words:696
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