OLYMPIA – A measure that would provide a much-needed boost to law enforcement in the fight against child pornography and exploitation had a public hearing today in the House Finance committee. House Bill 2389, sponsored by Rep. David Sawyer (D-Tacoma), would levy a 40 cent tax on the retail sale of wireless devices used to access the Internet – such as laptops and cell phones – and dedicate those revenues to the Washington Internet Crimes Against Children Account.
“That 40 cents we can measure in lives saved,” Sawyer testified to the committee. “You will literally save the lives of children and prevent them from being raped.”
According to the Washington Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force, our state ranks consistently near the top for the highest rate of child pornography downloads per capita in the nation. In 2015, Sawyer successfully fought to get the task force the funding to do its critical work of rescuing children from abuse and exploitation. His bill that year makes perpetrators pay a fine of $1000 for each image or video they download. However, the task force is overwhelmed with cases and needs a dedicated revenue stream to fulfill its mission.
According to Capt. Mike Edwards of the Seattle Police Department, who also testified today, the task force needs specialized training and currently only has one full-time prosecutor for ICAC cases. Captain Edwards is the ICAC task force commander.
Most child pornography images downloaded in Washington state depict children under the age of eight. Thirty-three percent are of children under the age of three. The technology already exists to help law enforcement track and find who is downloading these images, but the resources to investigate and rescue children is limited. Sawyer’s bill provides those resources and would cost consumers only pennies on the purchase of a wireless device.
“I think it’s reasonable if you’re buying a new laptop or cell phone to pay 40 cents and rescue more children from being victims of these heinous crimes,” Sawyer said.