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Why Virginia’s AG is pushing ‘crowd-sourcing’ tech to fight child pornography

CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. -- Virginia's top law enforcement official is pushing for the use of new "crowd-sourcing" technology as a way of fighting child exploitation in Virginia and nationwide.

During a regional meeting of the National Association of Attorneys General, Virginia AG Mark Herring praised a new kind of software that allows law enforcement agencies across the country to share evidence collected during child pornography cases, which Herring said makes the process of identifying victims of abuse and get them help much faster.

The software allows investigators to analyze picture and video evidence collected during the course of an investigation elsewhere. For example, a detective in Virginia could examine a photo seized in a state like Arizona to look for clues in an active case the Virginia detective is working on.

The program also allows investigators to extract certain data from an image if it is available, like the model of the camera used or even GPS data embedded within the photo.

"The sooner we can rescue a child victim the better because then we can begin to get them the help they need and get them to a place of safety," Herring said after a presentation about the program Tuesday. "These tools are enabling us to reach those child victims sooner."

Herring said law enforcement agencies in Virginia began deploying the software last year and saw results almost immediately.

"It's already leading to more tips and more investigations, 175 law enforcement agencies are already plugging in, said Herring. "One of the great things about this tool is the more agencies that are involved, the more powerful the tools become."

Virginia is one of five states participating in the "Campaign for Child Resuce," an initiative urging other states to adopt and deploy the crowd-sourcing technology.

According to the Attorney General's office, over the past three years, Virginia prosecutors have brought charges against nearly 250 perpetrators, securing jail sentences of nearly 500 years.

They have examined more than 2,000 computers, phones, and other devices in about 400 cases.