Attorney General Jim Hood announced Operation Broken Heart Mississippi, which has already lead to the execution of 15 search warrants and 11 arrests in the past two months and announced sending an alert to all in law enforcement and victims groups asking them to contact their legislative friends to replace $4 million to fund the Cyber Crime and Victims Compensation efforts.
Since taking office in 2004, General Hood’s Cyber Crime Division has tested more than 7,000 devices for digital evidence leading to hundreds of convictions, many for child exploitation. His office is home to one of the country’s leading Cyber Crime Divisions. Their success during the years highlight the continued battle against dangerous child predators and underscores the importance of continued legislative funding for this division, as well as other vital efforts to combat crime in Mississippi.
“Protecting children from sexual predators and adults from cyber crime scams and other cyber predators is my passion,” said General Hood. “It is our mission and duty to champion those who are not able to protect themselves. Unfortunately, our efforts to aggressively investigate and prosecute these perpetrators have become entangled in the current budget mess at the Capitol.”
The Cyber Crime Division is home to the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) program, which targets online child predators. Since its inception, the Cyber Crime Division has been the model unit for developing cyber crime units in other states. The Attorney General’s ICAC Task Force is made up of 60 local, state and federal law enforcement affiliate agencies with a purpose of enhancing efforts to identify and arrest child predators. In addition, the Cyber Crime Division and task force focus on education and outreach to the public, conducting numerous internet safety presentations and training courses in our communities throughout the year. Investigators and prosecutors staffed in the Attorney General’s Cyber Crime Division provide critical training in computer forensics and investigative support to nearly 80 local district attorneys and 276 police and sheriff departments across the state. The Cyber Crime Division operates the only statewide digital forensics laboratory, which has been used to obtain and analyze thousands of electronic items related to hundreds of criminal cases statewide.
“This division is second to none among attorneys general offices across the country,” said General Hood. “We have served a role in nearly every major cyber criminal case over the last 10 years, and our digital forensics experts have testified as experts in several trials. There are people who believe the government is their enemy and think that government must be killed. Sadly, these individuals haven’t tried to learn how vital it is to have someone in the cyber unit standing on that wall 24 hours a day, seven days a week to protect us all. The work of this division cannot fall victim to our state legislature’s politically motivated budget cuts.”
Prior to the passage of Senate Bill 2362 in 2016, the Cyber Crime Division was funded by between $1 and $1.1 million per year from criminal citation fees. This was a stable funding source for the Cyber Crime Division. Although these fees are still collected, the Legislature diverted the money to a legislative fund without forwarding the fee to the Division.
Over the past two years, the budget of the Attorney General’s Office has been reduced by 28%. The general fund budget cut from FY 2017 to the FY 2018 committee report was 18.5% the largest of any state agency. The FY 2018 bill that died during the 2017 Regular Session would have been 12.6% below the Legislative Budget Office’s recommendation, which is virtually unheard of in state government. The 2018 General Fund budget of the office may be cut by 18.5% or $5,212,310 below our FY 2017 General Fund budget and a portion of this $5,212,310 General Fund cut affects the funding for the Cyber Crime Division. Previously, the office received assessments ranging between $6.5 and $7 million per year to operate the following nine programs:
Crime Victim Compensation
LEO & FF Disability Benefits
Vulnerable Persons Investigation & Prosecution
Child Support Prosecution
Domestic Violence Training
Prosecutor Training & Education
Motorcycle Officers/Law Enforcement Officers Training
Children’s Advocacy Centers
The Attorney General called on the public to call their legislative friends and ask them to replace at least $4 million in funding necessary to keep these programs going. Victims of crime and injured law enforcement and fire fighters are relying on this funding.
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