FBI’s Innocent Images program marks 25 years of investigating online child exploitation

In 1995 the FBI learned pedophiles were using online chat rooms to communicate with victims, revolutionizing the way agents investigate child sexual abuse

By Police1 Staff 

BALTIMORE — An FBI taskforce begun during the dawn of the internet is celebrating 25 years of investigating online child exploitation. 

The Innocent Images program was born in 1995 on the heels of a 1993 case involving the disappearance of a 10-year-old boy, according to an FBI press release Monday. George Stanley Burdynski was never found, but the investigation led to charges against three men who were convicted of sexually abusing several boys in George’s neighborhood. It was during that case that investigators learned offenders were using computers to chat with their victims and other pedophiles. That discovery led to a revolution in how law enforcement investigates child abuse cases, according to the release. 

In the months after George’s disappearance, the FBI’s Baltimore Field Office launched the first online undercover team assigned to investigate child predators. 

“The scrappy but resourceful team crammed three burly agents into the telephone closet used for wiretaps and sent them online with undercover identities,” the FBI said in the release. “Within hours of putting messages out on these burgeoning bulletin boards, the office was flooded with leads.” 

The team was a massive success, leading to the nationwide expansion of the FBI’s Innocent Images program.

NEXT: How the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children battles child abuse and exploitation

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