The FBI has always investigated crimes against persons regardless of the victim’s age. However, a distinct unit devoted exclusively to children’s issue did not exist until the early 1990s. While responding to the disappearance of a child in May 1993, the FBI’s field office in Baltimore, Maryland investigated two suspects who were exploiting children through the use of a computer. This case led to a recognition that the problem of child exploitation through the Internet extended far beyond the suburbs of Maryland. Through the following three milestones, a local investigation gradually evolved into the two principal investigative programs on crimes against children within the FBI.
(1) 1995: The Innocent Images National Initiative
In May 1995, the FBI launched its IINI, modeled after the initial response of child abduction in 1993 by its Baltimore, Maryland Field Office. IINI was part of the Criminal Investigative Division (CID) of the FBI, and its investigative focus was on those who exploit children through the use of computers.
(2) 1997: The Office of Crimes Against Children
In January 1997, the FBI reorganized and established within the CID the Office of Crimes Against Children. IINI became a part of the Office of Crimes Against Children as well. The FBI created the Office of Crimes Against Children to address the victimization of children and issues on interagency-liaison, legislative concerns, budget, and training. In May 1997, the FBI Director required each field office to have at least two Special Agents serve as coordinators on crimes against children.133 The duties of the coordinators include establishing and maintaining “multi-agency, multi-disciplinary” resources to ensure “effective investigation and prosecution” of crimes against children. The name of the office changed twice, most recently in January 2000 to the Crimes Against Children Unit (CACU), which is still used today. Currently, the CACU is a sub-program under the Violent Crimes Section of the CID.134
(3) 2002: The Cyber Division
In July 2002, the FBI created the Cyber Division to respond to all crimes facilitated through the use of the Internet, computer systems, or networks. IINI was formally transferred to the Cyber Crime Section of the Cyber Division in January 2003, thereby splitting the FBI’s investigative response to crimes against children into two parts: IINI and CACU. The CACU under the CID responds to traditional criminal concerns without a cyber nexus such as child abductions and prostitution of children. IINI under the Cyber Division responds to computer-based crimes where the victim is a child.
- The number of the required CAC Coordinators was reduced from two to one at each FBI field office in February 2004, following the transfer of the IINI from the Criminal Investigative Division to the Cyber Division and the resulting shift of resources.
- The FBI classifies its investigations through a three-tiered system of programs, sub-programs and classification codes. As of 2006, the FBI has 13 programs, one of which is the Violent Crime program. The Violent Crime program is further divided into eight sub-programs, including Crimes Against Children.