An unprecedented national conference on fighting child exploitation will unfold in San Jose this week, when a thousand law enforcement officials huddle in the South Bay, including U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

The conference, which opens Tuesday and runs through Friday at the San Jose convention center, will largely focus on ways to nab child predators and on efforts at keeping children safe from sexual abuse and slavery. U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag, the Bay Area's top law enforcer, will help kick off the conference Tuesday morning.

In recent years, federal law enforcement efforts have focused on cracking down on child pornography. A Mercury News review in 2008 found that child porn cases had become one of the Justice Department's fastest-growing areas of prosecution, with the number of such cases jumping from just 30 nationwide in 1995 to more than 2,000 a year a decade later.

That trend has continued in the Bay Area's federal courts, where it has been common for dozens of child porn cases to be filed annually. Federal prosecutors filed 29 child porn cases in local federal courts in 2010, according to the U.S. attorney's office.

Haag, who took over as U.S. attorney last year, said last week that the child porn crackdown continues to be a high priority.


Advertisement

Several cases resolved in the past year in San Jose federal court illustrate how tough the prison terms have become for defendants convicted of possessing or peddling child porn.

Last year, David Miller, a San Jose man, pleaded guilty to transmitting and possessing hundreds of images of children engaged in sexual conduct and was sentenced to seven years in prison. Another San Jose man, Wendell Scott, pleaded guilty to similar allegations and was hit with a five-year term.

Nevertheless, state and federal law enforcement officials say such material is proliferating on the Web, feeding the exploitation of children. Holder is expected to address the issue in a keynote speech on Thursday. San Jose Police Chief Chris Moore also is expected to participate in the conference.

Contact Howard Mintz at 408-286-0236.