Local News

Ask Anything: 10 questions with Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force

Posted September 15, 2009

1

How can I educate my child about the dangers of the Internet, as far as those preying on children, without making her really fearful? – Julia Mallory, Durham

Julia, there is literature available free to children and parents who wish to learn about Internet safety.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) handles cases ranging from children being reported lost to children being abducted. They also assist law enforcement with online solicitation and sexual exploitation cases and provide training.

NCMEC’s website, www.missingkids.com, has a lot of resources for parents/guardians, child care providers, law enforcement and the media. Netsmartz – www.netsmartz.org – is a great site that is part of NCMEC and provides free resources for education.

In addition, the Durham Police Department is part of the North Carolina ICAC (Internet Crimes Against Children) Task Force. We work proactive and reactive cases and provide education and training to persons requesting a presentation.

For more information on the Durham Police Department’s ICAC Task Force, please go to http://www.durhampolice.com/news/pdf/090721_1.pdf.

2

It’s so easy for kids to lie about their age to create a MySpace account, leaving them open to predators. How can we teach children WHY it is so dangerous to talk to older men online? Pre-teens tend to think their parents are overreacting about things like this and don’t take it seriously. – Jennifer Howell, Goldsboro

Jennifer, as a parent/guardian it is our responsibility to protect our kids and keep them safe both in real life and on the Internet.

Most parents wouldn’t let their children visit unsafe places in real life without making sure they are safe and since the Internet can also be unsafe, we have to enable ourselves to protect them online.

We need to show children what goes on in everyday life; there are many cases that involve online solicitation, child exploitation and predators that are preying on children online. Predators use these places as playgrounds because they know the Internet is a popular place for children to hang out.

3

Will the task force go after other children that bully other kids on their websites or kids that post inappropriate pictures on the web? – Roger Williamson, Butner

Roger, threats or harassment, often called “cyberbullying,” happens quite often without the victim ever reporting the crime. We recommend that victims of this crime save the original message(s) and contact a law enforcement official.

Tell your child not to respond to the messages and to block them. When you see a picture on the web that you suspect might be inappropriate, contact a law enforcement official and let them decide if the picture is inappropriate.

Children under the age of 18 years of age should not be posting pictures that are sexually suggestive in nature.

4

What are some of the most memorable cases you’ve investigated? – Justin

Justin, they are all memorable to me in different ways. Most cases I have are pending in court and I am not allowed to share information on them. I will say that I enjoy working ICAC cases because it allows me to catch offenders who prey on children. It allows me to help many children who are in need and be their voice. Apprehending a suspect who may prey on a child is very rewarding and a great feeling.

5

How secure is Facebook? – Doris Bennett, Snow Hill

Doris, this year we had our 21st Annual Crimes Against Children Conference hosted in Dallas, Texas, and Facebook employees gave a presentation acquainting law enforcement officials with their site.

Facebook and MySpace do not allow children under the age of 13 years of age. They also provide tips for parents and resources under the help safety feature. Social networking sites are as secure as you make them. You can choose not to share information under your settings.

Please remind teens not to add people who are not real life friends. Remember anything you post on line can remain there forever and be used against you later in life. We also recommend that parents keep the computer in a non-isolated area of the house like the living room and we suggest that parents check their children’s Internet activity and obtain their user names and passwords.

6

You probably see some disturbing things while doing your job. How does it affect you? – Kelly

Kelly, dealing with ICAC crimes is by far not easy. While working cases we are subjected to viewing videos and photographs of child pornography. I have children also and thrive on doing the best job I can do to protect them as well as my victims.

I would like to make the world a better place for all children to grow up without any dangers; unfortunately I can only do so much. Sometimes I have stressful days at work, but when I come to a conclusion in my case and make an arrest it all becomes worth it.

The Durham Police Department also has a policy in place for persons working these cases to visit a psychiatrist twice a year.

7

I would love to do what you are doing but I see you have to become a police officer then detective. What training do I need to qualify to do what you do? Thanks. – KC, Morrisville

KC, you can visit the http://www.durhampolice.com/recruiting/ for information on becoming a police officer. Once you become a police officer and work on patrol, you can apply to be an investigator.

The ICAC training is an ongoing process and changes daily due to technology changing. We as police officers are required to go through many hours of in-service training annually to keep our certification. I strongly suggest you speak with a recruiter if you are interested in becoming a police officer and to see if you qualify.

Remember, we don’t recommend anybody trying to investigate Internet crimes against children on their own; you could face charges or severely damage an ongoing investigation. Always report suspicious activity to your local law enforcement agency.

8

Are there any common traits or factors among people who prey on children on the Internet? – Cathy

Cathy, most tend to be male, 30 to 65 years of age and middle to upper class. They tend to be college graduates and they usually have children older than the children they are talking to online. Most appear to be married or have some type of ongoing relationship.

This does not mean every case will involve somebody with some or all of these traits. The truth of the matter is that there is no single sure trait that indicates a pedophile. They can be young or old, male or female, rich or poor.

It would be hard to look at somebody and say that person is guilty. Most people do this in the privacy of their home and keep a secret life separate from their real life. There also have been occasions where women have been looked at for committing these crimes.

9

What does it mean when officials state that possible child pornography is not prosecutable? And is there some policy like with protective services that states that children involved with the individual in question be interviewed or questioned? – Mary Vernon, Princeton

Mary, I can’t reference to which officials you are referring to. I can tell you that we have a process in which we use the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to confirm images of child pornography. Many times just looking at videos and images that are labeled as child porn and appear to be child porn may not be confirmed as child porn.

NCMEC uses a program that can identify a child victim. Victims are stored in a database and used to assist with law enforcement investigations. If we recover a child who is a victim or suspected to be a victim, DSS and CPS will work in a joint effort to provide assistance and care for the child. They conduct an independent investigation if the victim/suspect is a parent/guardian or care taker.

If the victim is not related, we have the N.C. Child Response Initiative, http://www.nccri.org/ which is a program of the Center for Child and Family Health, http://www.ccfhnc.org/.

10

Would you like to have a civilian partner to assist with the behavior modification necessary to change the habits of these predators? If so, I would be happy to volunteer. – Tom Boyd, Holly Springs

Tom, the police department is not involved in that specific aspect of child pornography cases.


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