FARMINGTON—The Internet holds a wealth of information and can be a valuable resource for children — but it can also be the perfect hiding place for predators.
The Utah Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force has made it their mission to stop these offenders and protect kids from becoming victims of sexual exploitation and human trafficking. Last week, the Utah Attorney General’s Office announced multiple arrests made after several months of investigation by ICAC.
Although run by the Attorney General’s Office, law enforcement agencies throughout Davis County have ICAC task force members who assisted with the investigations and subsequent arrests.
“The ICAC task force goes throughout the state to investigate with the Attorney General’s Office,” said Davis County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Jon West, who was with ICAC for several years. “We look for child porn, enticing children over the Internet and distribution or creation of pornography. There is usually an investigative night once a week where one of our deputies is assigned to assist with a search warrant to knock on doors from information ICAC has gathered.”
West said cities from Syracuse through Bountiful to Woods Cross are involved with ICAC. “It gives more manpower and keeps the case load down rather than one person covering the whole county,” he said. “They are actively looking for predators online who are doing and saying inappropriate things. They look on social media and do forensic searches of computers.”
The Attorney General’s Office said among the 71 arrests made in Utah included:
- Manufacture of child pornography of victims as young as 5 years old.
- Adults soliciting other adults to engage in sexual contact with children under their custody/care.
- “Hands-on” offenders.
- Some offenders contacted children online solely for sexual activity.
- Possession of child pornography upon arrest.
- One offender talked of having fantasies of “killing” people when he got angry.
- At least six children between 5-12 years old rescued during the operation.
- Criminal charges filed in federal or state courts.
Parents need to be vigilant in keeping their children safe from online predators, West said. He offers these suggestions:
- Know what your children are doing on social media and what websites they’re going to.
- Keep PlayStation/ Xbox systems, computers and laptops in an area that is accessible to parents, not in a bedroom.
- Take an active role to know what your children are doing on the Internet.
“Be nosey – it’s a parent’s job,” he said. “Any site that attracts kids will attract predators. Parental controls are out there. Be familiar with their devices. Every device has controls but kids are so much smarter than their parents now they can bypass the controls. I got a basic phone for my son that has no Internet or picture messaging.”
West said new crimes pop up daily. “It’s nearly impossible for law enforcement to stay on top of it. Our tactics involve all aspects of finding predators including peer to peer networks.”
“We worked with Woods Cross on the Todd Rettenburger human trafficking case,” said Daniel Burton, director of communications/government records for the Attorney General’s Office. “Those guys were great to work with. They’re fantastic in Davis County.”
The AG’s office said it is critical for Utahns to help by reporting suspicious activity. Contact the ICAC Tip Line at 801-281-1211 or email email@example.com. The SECURE Tip Line is 801-200-3443 and the Human Trafficking National Hotline is 1-888-373-7888.
Read more: The Davis Clipper – ICAC helps stop crimes against children