RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - There are some startling statistics out which show child pornography as the fastest growing crime in Virginia. A recent report in a Virginia newspaper says cases spiked over 200 percent from 2003 to 2009.
The biggest culprit could be the Internet. Pedophiles have increasingly used the Internet to share child pornography, but the Internet is also helping law enforcement catch these criminals too.
Ian Danielsen is a child therapist for the Greater Richmond Stop Abusing Children Now group. He says these numbers are staggering.
"We're seeing evidence of an epidemic-level problem," he said. "But we may be seeing out in the open much of what was already hidden."
Rusty Maguire is the Deputy Louisa County Commonwealth's Attorney. He says the Internet has made it easier for pedophiles to share child pornography.
"We've seen a significant growth," he said. "Whereas in the past people would hide in the shadows, they could send stuff through the mail. Now with the Internet, pornography is only a click away."
But the Internet is also helping law enforcement track down pedophiles trying to use the Internet in illegal ways. Maguire says Internet browsers can track the sharing of child pornography.
"In the old days, twenty years ago, you had to hope to be lucky and catch something in the mail or catch a report from somebody who saw something," Maguire said. "Today, every time you send an email with child pornography, it can be identified."
The US Immigration and Customs Enforcement is the federal agency that handles most child pornography cases. That agency has made over 12,000 child pornography related arrests in the last seven years.
The Commonwealth's Attorney says there are about 20,000 computers in Virginia alone with child pornography.