Forty men from all over New Jersey have been taken into custody and accused of downloading, and in some cases distributing, online child pornography.

Operation Statewide, which was conducted over a six-month period by the Regional Internet Crimes against Children task force, relied heavily on technology to track down and catch the accused.

“State Police detectives monitored peer-to-peer file sharing networks commonly used by these offenders in order to identify individuals sharing and downloading child pornography,” said state Attorney General Christopher Porrino.

David Matthau, Townsquare Media

“The images that we are often successful in identifying as being child pornography have what are called 'hash values.' Those has hash values are searched for and traced.”

According to Porrino, the detectives traced files of child porn to computer IP addresses connected to offenders who live in New Jersey, and then “attorneys from the Division of Criminal Justice then prepared search warrants and the State Police executed them.”

He said “officers seized a large volume of evidence, including computers, smart phones and other equipment containing videos and still images of child pornography.”

Porrino did not elaborate on the specific technology that identifies hash values, but he stressed “the results of this investigation make it clear that the technology is working quite well. Those involved in this need to understand we will find you, we will catch you, the technology exists and we will continue to use it.”

Sharing or watching — both bad

While distribution of child porn is considered a more serious crime than simple possession, Colonel Rick Fuentes, the superintendent of the State Police, issued a pointed warning to all those involved with child pornography.

“Those who choose to simply download would be ill-advised to assume their actions are hidden off in the shadows,” he said. “The capabilities of our cyber-detectives and members of the New Jersey Internet Crimes Against Children task force, who are armed with the most sophisticated technology and software, make it as easy to spot the voyeur as it does the distributor.”

Porrino added “the investigation is continuing."

"We’re here, we’re continuing to work and I suspect in the future we’ll have additional arrests to announce.”

Pervasive problem

When asked how big of a problem online child porn has become, Porrino said “the nature of this investigation and the results that it produced, including defendants and arrests in all 21 counties, makes it clear this conduct is pervasive.

"It’s happening in a lot of corners of our state.”

He pointed out the suspects range in age from 20 to 72, and work in many different fields and professions.

"We made arrests in our cities, and we made arrests in the remote corners of our state. It’s not limited by any other characteristic that I can describe, other than a depraved desire to see images and videos of kids being raped.”

The attorney general said he doesn’t know if this kind of depravity has always been present, however it’s important to note “as the technology continues to improve and pervade the society as it has, over time our tips have increased. The more technology there is, the more people who possess it, provide a vehicle for people like the 40 who were charged here today to do the unspeakable kinds of things that they’ve done.”

Porrino urged everyone to call Internet Crimes Against Children tip line at 1-888-648-6007 if they have information about the distribution of child pornography on the internet, or suspect someone is communicating inappropriately with a child online or sexually abusing a child.

He added “offenders who derive sexual gratification from these vile materials pose a real danger to children due to their deviant impulses.”

The evidence seized from the defendants has been brought to the FBI’s regional forensics lab, which is staffed by experts from several organizations including the State Police, who will examine it using state-of-the-art techniques.

Contact reporter David Matthau at David.Matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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