The Web’s Large and Creepy Spider
By Sheriff Frank Reynolds
For those of us who grew up in Cherokee County without the internet or smartphones, our form of social media was cruising the McDonald’s parking lot on Friday and Saturday nights to see and be seen.
Internet technology and cellular phone apps can be wonderful tools, but there is a very large and creepy spider on the web: child exploitation.
The Cherokee Sheriff’s Office has a team of detectives who work tirelessly to identify these predators and bring them to justice. Recently, CSO detectives joined forces with other metropolitan and federal law enforcement agencies in Operation Just Cause.
The goal of Operation Just Cause was to arrest persons who communicated with children online and then traveled to meet them for the purpose of having sex. Additionally, the operation targeted those who are willing to exploit children by purchasing sex with a minor. Online child predators visit chat rooms and websites on the internet, find children, begin conversations with them, introduce sexual content, and arrange a meeting with the children for the purpose of having sex. Over the course of the operation, 24 people were arrested for intent to meet a child for sex, according to the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office.
This is just one example of the many cases that exist in the metro Atlanta area.
Detective Claude L. Dobbs is CSO’s chief detective responsible for investigating internet crimes against children (ICAC).
Detective Dobbs explains:
• Snapchat is and has always been a problem. The number of children victimizing themselves through Snapchat, thinking that the images they send to someone will just disappear, is staggering. There is no reason, ever, for any child under age 18 to have a Snapchat account.
• Instagram has replaced Facebook among children. With the ability to send private messages within the app, which one or both parties can delete at will, has been a recipe for disaster.
• FaceTime and Google Hangout videos have also allowed children to be victimized. Parents won’t be able to see what their children see in real time video streams, or streams that predators have recorded in the past without the child’s knowledge.
• Tumblr is another app that children and teens have used to acquire pornography and expose themselves to unsavory information. Tumblr houses blogs that cover everything from adult pornography, to child pornography (until it is discovered and removed), to self-harm material, bondage, and drugs.
• A good rule of thumb — if the platform allows users to transmit live video, of which there is no record that parents can see, it’s a recipe for exploitation. If an application allows images and videos to be sent that disappear (or they think it disappears) moments after being sent, it’s a recipe for exploitation.
Protecting our children is of the highest priority. If you would like more information concerning child exploitation, please call CSO’s criminal investigation office at 770-928-0239.