WESTCHESTER COUNTY, N.Y. – Protecting your children today means keeping a close eye on their activity online, where local and state police say they are vulnerable to a growing number of sexual predators.
With 93 percent of teens between the ages of 12 and 17 using the Internet, the number of documented complaints of online enticement of children shot up 230 percent from 2004 to 2008, according to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
“There are so many different ways that you have to keep an eye on them,” said Trooper Melissa McMorris, spokeswoman for the New York State Police. “The best way is to keep an open communication line with your kids and talk to them about the dangers and that they aren’t to talk to people that they don’t know.”
Pound Ridge police learned that a Level 3 sex offender recently moved into town thanks to an alert mother who checked her daughters’ Facebook pages. She found on their friends' list Edward Campbell, whom she learned from a quick Google search had been convicted in 2012 of having sex with a 13-year-old-girl.
“If you Google any name and type after it, ‘sex offender,’ it will bring you to a registry if they are a registered sex offender,” Pound Ridge Police Chief David Ryan told parents at a recent press conference addressing the situation.
Campbell, of Mahopac, has since been arrested and sent to Putnam County jail.
In another case, a 73-year-old Western Connecticut State professor is accused of having sex with 15-year-old boy he met online. Paul Hines of Danbury is due in Somers town court Monday.
“You have an obligation to protect your kids from people like this,” Ryan sad. “Kids are using this technology today and communicating around the globe, daily. You have to monitor them, you really do.”
In 2013, state police investigated 1,600 cases of sexual predators and made 93 arrests across New York from 2,000 cyber tips. It investigated 1,400 cases and made 97 arrests in 2012, and 1,040 cases and 89 arrests in 2011.
“I trust my kids. But, it’s not what they do. It’s what somebody else does to them to manipulate them,” he said.
Online predators may threaten to contact the parents of children they’re communicating with online in order to get them to do what they ask, like send pictures or video. The state police’s cyber crimes division said this is a new trend.
“The kids, at that point, get intimidated into sending more information,” McMorris said. “It’s another place where you need to stay open and communicate with your kids.”