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First National Juvenile Online Victimization Study
(N-JOV)

Summary. The National Juvenile Online Victimization Study (N-JOV) was funded by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and the Department of Justice, OJJDP. It looks at the incidence and characteristics of juvenile online victimization cases, including sexual exploitation and child pornography cases, in the criminal justice system and it catalogues and describes barriers to the investigation and prosecution of juvenile online victimization cases.

Background

As Internet use among children and adolescents has become widespread, concern has grown about the extent to which sexual offenders are using the Internet to gain access to child and adolescent victims and to collect and transmit child pornography. The full incidence of juvenile online victimization (JOV) is difficult to measure because sexual crimes are often unreported. However, the number of Internet-related child exploitation cases referred to the FBI Innocent Images program grew exponentially between 1996 and 2000. JOV cases have received a great deal of publicity, caused much concern among parents, law enforcement agencies, law makers, educators and other child advocates, and become a factor in the debate over Internet regulation. However, largely because these crimes are a recent phenomenon, information about the characteristics of JOV cases, offenders and victims, and about the concerns and experiences of the professionals involved in cases stemming from these crimes has not been systematically gathered.

The Goals of the N-JOV project are to:

 

Methodology

The N-JOV study collected information from a national sample of law-enforcement agencies about the characteristics of Internet sex crimes against minors and the numbers of arrests for these crimes during a one-year period. Law-enforcement investigators were interviewed, because investigators have been in the forefront of identifying and combating these crimes and are the best sources of accessible, in-depth information about their nature. A focus was placed on cases that ended in arrests rather than crime reports or open investigations because cases ending in arrests were more likely to involve actual crimes; had more complete information about the crimes, offenders, and victims; gave a clear standard for counting cases; and helped avoid interviewing multiple agencies about the same case.

First a national sample of 2,574 state, county, and local law-enforcement agencies was surveyed by mail asking them if they had made arrests in Internet-related, child-pornography or sexual-exploitation cases. Then detailed telephone interviews were conducted with investigators who had such cases. The methodology was modeled after that used in the Second National Incidence Studies of Missing, Abducted, Runaway, and Thrownaway Children (NISMART-2) to survey law-enforcement agencies about child-abduction cases. A stratified sample of law-enforcement agencies was created to get information from agencies that specialized in Internet sex crimes against minors and still allow every agency a chance to be selected in the sample. To do this the agencies were divided into the three groups noted below.

Eighty-eight percent of the agencies (n = 2,270) that received mail surveys responded. Seventeen percent of the agencies (n = 383) that responded reported 1,723 arrests. Interviews were conducted on all eligible cases that had identified victims or came from agencies reporting three or fewer cases. When agencies reported four or more cases, a random sample of cases was selected for interviews. To be eligible, cases had to:

Of the 1,077 cases in the sample, 58% (n = 630) interviews were completed, 26% did not meet eligibility requirements, 9% involved agencies that did not respond to requests for interviews, 2% involved respondents who refused to be interviewed, and 4% involved duplicate cases or cases that could not be identified. A statistical technique called “weighting” was used to estimate annual numbers of arrests. Weighting takes into account sampling procedures and non-response, allowing use of the data to project estimated annual arrest totals with 95% confidence that the accurate number will fall within a specific range.

Summary of Findings