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GBI task force issues child porn warrants for 98 throughout state

COVINGTON -- As a result of a three-month investigation coordinated by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, search warrants were executed Wednesday in 37 Georgia counties, including Newton County, in connection with the distribution of child pornography over the Internet.

"This is the largest operation of its kind in Georgia conducted by the state's ICAC Task Force," said GBI spokesman John Bankhead. "Known as 'Operation Guarding Innocence,' this statewide endeavor includes 50 teams representing 47 federal, state and local law enforcement and criminal justice agencies."

According to Newton County Sheriff's Office Public Information Officer Deputy Cortney Morrison, the NCSO has made one arrest in connection with the operation.

Thomas Blake Henson, 27, of 149 Steele Road has been arrested and charged with sexual exploitation of children and the Computer Pornography Act of 2007.

"The team served a search warrant today (Wednesday) and was able to recover evidence from the residence," Morrison said.

This operation, which ran from January through March, centered on the ability of GBI agents and local affiliates that are members of the Georgia ICAC Task Force to detect specific child porn images being shared over the Internet. Ninety-eight (98) suspects have been identified as distributing child porn over the Internet and were targeted for search warrants in Wednesday's operation, Bankhead said.

The mission of the ICAC Task Force Program, created by the U. S. Department of Justice and housed within the GBI, is to assist state and local law enforcement agencies in developing an effective response to cyber enticement and child pornography cases. This support encompasses forensic and investigative components, training and technical assistance, victim services, prevention and community education.

The program was developed in response to the increasing number of children and teenagers using the Internet, the proliferation of child pornography, and the heightened online activity by predators searching for unsupervised contact with underage victims. By helping state and local law enforcement agencies develop effective and sustainable responses to online child victimization and child pornography, the ICAC program delivers national resources at the local level.

"April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month, a time to raise awareness about child abuse and neglect," Bankhead said. "The ICAC Task Force Program is an important partnership that focuses its efforts to protect children on-line and hold offenders accountable. The ICAC Task Force investigators are committed to working tirelessly to strengthen police relationships and promoting awareness and participation in order to produce positive results that help make the Internet a safer place for America's children."

In 2008, the Georgia ICAC Task Force made 109 arrests and in 2009 made 164 arrests. In 2010, the Task Force made 162 arrests and in 2011, made 173 arrests. There were a total of 163 arrests made in 2012. There have been 974 arrests in Georgia by the ICAC Task Force since it was established in 2002.

The Georgia ICAC Task Force website is www.familyinternet.info and the GBI website is http://gbi.georgia.gov/.