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Internship Immerses Student In Canadian Exploitation Issues

Dec. 8, 2010
SHSU Media Contact: Beth Kuhles

Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Preparing for work in the real world with an internship, graduate student Breanne Dolphin returned “home” to help the Royal Canadian Mounted Police look into child exploitation issues within the country.

A Canadian citizen in Sam Houston State University’s criminal justice program, Dolphin researched books, movies and articles on child predators for the country’s National Child Exploitation Coordination Center.

Her research will provide the national clearinghouse with insight into publications that promote child pornography and the abolition of the age of consent, as well as the latest research into sexual predators. It will be another piece of the puzzle for the agency to address child exploitation on the Internet, according to Dolphin.

“I identified every book that deals with strong pedophile themes,” she said. “It gave me a lot of insight into books I didn’t even know existed.”

While Dolphin focused on research during her time in Canada, she also learned about other aspects of the agency, which included case analysis, triage and victim/suspect identification for online child pornography.

For example, the agency was developing a database of identifying information from all school districts in the county to help track down victims. A lot of times, the only identifying marks are the clothes they wear in videos, she said.

It also was a study of the sex tourism industry, where sexual predators from Canada traveled to other parts of the world to exploit children. Canadian law allows those suspects to be charged with a crime in Canada, even when the offense takes place in another country.

Finally, Dolphin was shown how a case unfolds from a chat room in Philadelphia that was traced back to a school computer used by a music teacher in Quebec.

“I got to see how each section worked,” Dolphin said. “The victim identification section was amazing. They could track down a razorblade in a bathroom to the country of origin. Just because a picture is on a Canadian computer doesn’t mean it’s from there.”

This isn’t the first time Dolphin has worked in the area of child exploitation on the Internet, a topic she said she became interested in after reading “One Child at a Time” by Julien Sher.

Dolphin also got practical experience in tracking down missing juveniles in the United States during a 2008 summer internship with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in Washington, D.C.

“It is not something that happens to somebody else; it is happening everywhere,” said Dolphin.

As an undergraduate at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta, Dolphin was charged with finding 20 to 30 missing children. One of her cases, Vermont’s first Amber Alert notification, was found murdered.

“It got my creative juices flowing, and I had to think ‘Where would these kids hang out; where would they be going?’” said Dolphin. “It would be different if it was a 12-year-old boy or a 12-year-old girl. It taught me to be patient and that you are not always going to get the outcome you want."

As part of her caseload, she helped track a 12-year-old girl on a Greyhound bus from a northern state on her way to meet a 47-year-old Texas man she met on the Internet.

She also located a 14-year-old runway who taunted police that she would never be found on her MySpace account.

“It was daunting,” said Dolphin. “They throw you right in the middle of it and said ‘Go find these children.’ You had your own case files, and you talked to law enforcement, parents and grandparents. I found out every child in America is on MySpace.”

She hopes her experience in research and practical application will help her land a job as a crime analyst, who help identify patterns and trends in crimes, assist in identifying and apprehending suspects and devise plans to combat crime.

Dolphin landed her post with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police through the College of Criminal Justice’s internship program, which offers practical experience in a criminal justice agency and allows students to link their classroom studies with career practice.

Internships, generally offered during the senior year, include a full-time, 40-hour assignment in an agency for a semester. Undergraduates earn nine semester hour credits and graduate students earn six.

“We want this internship to be a great experience for the students and the agency,” said Jim Dozier, criminal justice internship coordinator. “Many times internships segue into employment in the sponsoring agency. All allow for establishing networks that enhance career opportunities. Internship is a privilege, not a right, and these placements are competitive.”

Each year, about 125 students in the College of Criminal Justice are selected into the program. These are out of the 300 or more that express interest or apply to participate. Among the opportunities available are adult and juvenile corrections and probation; city/county, state and federal law enforcement; private security; legal services, support services, victim services; and international agencies, Dozier said. Forensic investigative internships also are available.



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