ORLANDO, Fla. - Over the past few weeks there have been a number of central Florida residents charged with downloading and sharing child pornography.
On Thursday, Channel 9 got rare access inside the Florida Department of Law Enforcement
Computer Crime Unit that works to investigate the cases.
In the past, investigations would take months because computers had to be sent away to be analyzed, but FDLE has a mobile forensics
lab plus indoor labs that help them turn cases around in about two weeks, officials said.
Channel 9's Myrt Price got
behind locked doors where FDLE agents showed him where they run forensics on seized computers.
Investigators said in order to catch child pornography suspects, they monitor file-sharing sites posing as people seeking child porn. Officials said they get many of the tips from social media sites and citizens.
"It can be anybody," said
FDLE Special Agent Jeffrey Duncan. "It can be your next-door neighbor, and you would never know."
Agents are also able to find the digital fingerprint that child porn leaves behind, which they follow until it leads them to the person who has been downloading it.
Agents said that last month, thousands of those fingerprints led them to John Shearen's apartment in Leesburg.
"On one of the database we utilize in Florida, he was one of the No. 1 downloaders at the time with almost
six million images and videos of child pornography," said Duncan.
And even though authorities are making several arrests each week, whenever they take someone off the streets, another person takes their place, Duncan said.
"We're barely scratching the surfaces," he said.
But agents said every child porn arrest matters because it's easier to find the illegal photos than it is to find the victims.
And Duncan said most of those arrested for possessing and downloading child pornography eventually admit to much more.
"Eighty-five percent of them have admitted to touching or sexual abusing or fondling a child," he said.
Shearen is facing multiple counts of child porn possession and distribution.