As pedophiles and child pornographers find new ways to commit their crimes in the Internet age, it is important for law enforcement to upgrade its tools to fight them.
A bill awaiting the governor's signature would make it easier to trace the source of child pornography on the Internet.
Among other things, Senate Bill 697 would require persons convicted of child exploitation offenses to give their Internet Protocol addresses to police.
While on parole or monitored supervised release, these people would have to allow searches of computers, cellular phones and other devices that can access the Internet or store electronic files.
The searches would only be allowed for verifying the IP address and ensuring parole conditions were being met.
The bill covers people convicted of indecent solicitation of a child, child pornography, aggravated child pornography and distributing harmful material.
The legislation passed unanimously in both the House and Senate. Gov. Rod Blagojevich should sign it without delay.
Attorney General Lisa Madigan, a major proponent of this measure, said in a press release that "IP addresses are critical evidence left at the scene by suspected high-tech child pornographers" and the bill's provisions would be an important tool in prosecuting child pornography cases.
The full scope of the problem is not yet known, but clearly the Internet is being used to exchange this material just as the regular mail system has been used.
Pedophiles are also using the Internet to find victims.
Madigan's office has a special task force that works with state and local police to investigate Internet crimes against children.
A joint investigation with the Wheaton Police Department recently led to the arrest of a 38-year-old man who traveled to Wheaton to meet a "child" - actually a police detective -he met in an online chat room.
While it is important for police and prosecutors to vigorously pursue these criminals, it is also important for parents to monitor their children's computer use and warn them of online dangers.
Madigan's office recently received the names of 842 registered sex offenders from Illinois who use MySpace, the online networking site that is particularly popular with young people. The young users see it as a way to socialize without fully recognizing the risks.
Illinois joined several other states in subpoenaing the information from News Corp., the owner of MySpace. Madigan is seeking similar information from Facebook and Xanga to help determine whether registered sex offenders are violating their probation or parole restrictions.
Gov. Rod Blagojevich should sign Senate Bill 697 to give law enforcement more tools to uncover those who are using the Internet to exploit or harm children.