Sexual predators have moved online
Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 26, 2006
Sgt. Karl Youngblood said the Internet has made life easier but sexual predators are using the World Wide Web to prey on children through social websites like myspace.com and facebook.com.
“Don't think your children are going to tell you everything,” said Youngblood, who heads up the Alabama Bureau of Investigation's ICAC (Internet Crimes Against Children) Task Force. “If you come into their room and they are turning the computer off, reducing web browsers or clearing the history (on the web browser), then you need to talk to them.”
Youngblood spoke to members of Fort Dale Academy's Parent-Teachers Association last week. He said social interaction websites like myspace.com have made it easier for child sex predators to stalk victims on-line and arrange for meetings. Meetings where anything can happen.
“In 44 percent of the cases where a child is kidnapped the victim is dead in less than one hour,” he said.
Myspace.com exists as a social site on the Internet. Users can create a profile page, which can include everything from their name, age, and what school they attend, to any number of photographs and their dating status.
What children are revealing on the World Wide Web can be alarming, according to Cpl. Brian Mosley, a member of the Greenville Police Department who will be heading up an ICAC Task Force in the area.
Mosley said as school resource officer for Greenville Middle School he created his own profile page on myspace.com and kept tabs on many of the students from GMS who had their own pages on the social network. Students talked about weekend parties where alcohol and marijuana was involved or even posted pictures of the event, said Moseley.
“I contacted their parents on the Monday after and told them to check so-and-so's myspace page to see what they had done that weekend,” he said.
The problem, said Moseley and Youngblood, is that parents sometimes put too much trust in their children.
“The first thing I tell parents is never allow a child to have a computer in their own roomŠput it in a living room or a den,” said Moseley. “And if they have a myspace page ask to look at it. See what kind of information they're putting out there.”
And many times it's not the children the parents should worry about, said Youngblood, it's the sexual predators who lurk in cyberspace. Youngblood showed parents the myspace page of one adult male who was also registered as a high-risk sex offender in Arizona.
“It's a nightmare,” he said, “to keep up with sex offenders.”
ICAC was founded nationally in 1998, said Youngblood, and helps state and local law enforcement agencies enhance their investigative response to offenders who use the Internet, online communication systems, or other computer technology to sexually exploit children. Currently there are 30 satellite ICAC task forces in Alabama, said Youngblood.
Youngblood said ICAC is in no way affiliated with Perverted Justice, an online watchdog organization that works to target sexual predators. Perverted Justice gained popularity while working with NBC in the production of its “To Catch a Predator” investigative news piece on the television show “Dateline.” In the show, unsuspecting sexual predators are lured into a home on the pretense that they are there to meet an underage victim.
The problem with the program, said Youngblood, is that many of the arrests made during the production of the show do not actually stick because of the legalities of conducting stings to catch criminals.
“The one good thing it has done is brought recognition to the problem of sexual predators,” he said. “And put a spotlight on the people who are potentially about to commit a crime.”