"It's a huge problem, and it's been one majorly undetected except for a few experts in the field," said Eau Claire County Sheriff Ron Cramer. He is talking about child exploitation crimes including possessing child pornography.
Some crimes are more noticeable than others. An assault, robbery, or even theft. But others can stay silent, confined to a computer hard drive, only seen by a screen. So is the case with child pornography.
"There's literally thousands of spots across the state of Wisconsin that people are in possession of this on their computers right now," Cramer said.
Sheriff Cramer says the department's seen more sexual victimization of children in the last couple years and the department has been spending more time investigating those types of cases.
At the Eau Claire Police Department, Detective Paul Becker focuses specifically on that effort. He says at any given time, they are actively investigating about six cases involving child exploitation in the Chippewa Valley.
"Ones that resolve, new ones take their place," Becker added.
He says once police find images of child pornography, those images are sent to a national database so federal agents can try to identify them, and hopefully prevent those kids from being victimized in the future.
Becker says in many cases, child porn possession often leads to something much worse.
"Statistically it's very high that the individuals that are significant possessors of child pornography are hands on, so we try to root those folks out.
Last week the country watched while former Penn State coach Jerry Sandusky was convicted of 45 counts of sexual abuse. Cramer says it is a reminder that these types of crimes can strike anywhere.
"I think that's the one that really strikes us in the face and says it's a national thing and it’s out there, but it's happening every day in everybody’s neighborhood," he said.