'Alicia's Law' would fund child exploitation force in Washington state
Alicia Kozakiewicz was 13 when she was lured from her Pittsburgh home by a man she met online. She was taken to another state, chained in a basement and, for four days, raped, beaten and tortured. “My degradation was shared live, to an audience, over streaming video,” she said.A FBI internet crimes task force rescued her less than a week after she was abducted. Now, 13 years later, Kozakiewicz is advocating for “Alicia’s Law,” which would secure more funding for child exploitation task forces in Washington and other states. Law enforcement agencies have limited resources for rescuing many victims of child pornography, Kozakiewicz says. “They have to look into these children’s eyes and say ‘I don’t have the ability to come get you’,” she said. “I know who you are, I know where you are and I know what’s happening to you, but I can’t come save you because I don’t have the manpower.”
Senate Bill 5215 would use unclaimed lottery prize money to fund child exploitation investigations. Sen.Pam Roach is prime sponsor of the bill to allocate up to $2 million every two years to Washington’s branch of Internet Crimes Against Children, one of 61 national task forces dedicated to ending child exploitation online. Most of the money from unclaimed prizes stays in the state lottery fund to use for other prizes, but one-third is deposited in the development strategic reserve account. Rep. David Sawyer is sponsoring companion House Bill 1281, which adds a $1,000 fine per image or video containing child pornography. Seattle Police Captain Mike Edwards commands the Washington state task force, which in 2014 received more than 16,000 leads. It’s the job of six full-time employees to watch child pornography to identify victims and help prosecute sex offenders. The task force needs more labor to handle its caseload, Edwards said. It’s a tough job to do for more than a few years, he said, and it can take years before a position is filled. “You don’t want to force anybody to do this,” he said. “It’s something they have to decide on their own.” Local police departments offer some resources to assist with cases, but Edwards says agencies need more funding to devote full-time employees to child exploitation cases. “We’re getting crushed by the number of reports,” he said. Funding would help pay for more devoted employees. Seven states have passed similar bills and Washington is one of five states considering #AliciasLaw this year. Both bills have received public hearings, but have not yet been scheduled for a vote.