Detective Tamra Allen of the Clayton Police Department said she has seen her small town become cyber crime savvy.
"I've had where people in town have had their credit card used online, that kind of thing," said Allen. "I've had to track them down."
Last year, a federal agency that tracks cyber crime received more than 4,000 complaints from North Carolina. The state now ranks 13th in the nation in the number of cyber crime criminals.
Several alleged crimes involving the use of the Internet by child predators have come into the spotlight in recent weeks, both nationally and in the Triangle. The most high-profile arrest came on Wednesday, when John Mark Karr was arrested in Thailand in connection with the death of JonBenet Ramsey 10 years ago in Boulder, Colo. Authorities said that Internet communications between Kerr and a college professor linked to the case were used in their investigation.
Last Wednesday, 46-year-old David Jones, a teacher and coach at Phillips Middle School in Chapel Hill, and 31-year-old Joshua Shawn Pounds of Fayetteville were arrested on suspicion of soliciting teens via the Internet to commit sex acts. On Friday, Cary businessman Matthew Magee, 42, was also arrested on similar charges. And on Thursday, the chief of police of Landis, N.C., Charles Childers, was arrested on suspicion of having sexually explicit conversations with and sending pornography to an undercover agent posing as a teenage girl.
In yet another case, Sam Ellis pleaded guilty to statutory rape and sexual exploitation of a minor over the Internet on Thursday. Allen was one of the law enforcement officials who assisted in his investigation.
Allen has investigated 10 to 15 cyber crimes in the past two years. And she's learned that even a small town requires police to tap into a whole new network that reaches far beyond the town of Clayton.
"It is meticulous work," said Allen.
Seven full-time agents are assigned to the State Bureau of Investigation's Computer Crimes Unit. They're stationed in the major metropolitan areas across the state. They don't solve cyber crimes. Their job is to track criminals through their computer and Internet use.
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