Catching online child predators

SCOTT COUNTY, Iowa (KWQC) — In a world of advanced technology and social media, it’s easy to met new people and make friends online, but it’s also easy to take advantage of children.

Detective Rachelle Kunde with the Scott County Sheriff’s Office makes it a mission to stop these cyber predators. As part of her job, she has a Facebook profile of a fake 14-year-old girl. “I logged into my profile this morning and within approximately a minute or two I started getting messages from people wanting to talk, guys wanting to talk,” said Kunde. She pretends to be a teen as strangers message her randomly on Facebook.

Kunde says it shocks her how fast these predators attack. Often times, the conversation starts off innocent, but many quickly take a wrong turn. In one instance, a middle-aged man asked who he thought was a 14-year-old girl if she wanted to get in the shower with him. “Men will send pictures of themselves, still pictures, videos of themselves nude or masturbating to who they think is a 14-year-old,” said Detective Kunde.

She’s had several similar cases, even one where parents reported an incident and Kunde took over a real girl’s Facebook account to catch the predator. He was ultimately arrested and charged for enticement of a minor.

Kunde’s fear is the number of times incidents are happening unreported. She said, “How many people are doing it? I mean, that is something we could never really track or log.”

The detective says parents need to protect their kids. It’s almost impossible to keep them off of social media, but that may not be necessary. There are other ways of monitoring.

Travis Horn with Best Buy in Davenport says parents come in all the time with concerns. “There is always access nowadays for you to talk to multiple people you have never ever met,” said Horn. He is confident there are ways to control what children are doing on their laptops, tablets, cell phones, and really anything that touches the internet. He says there are brands like Kaspersky, Webroot and Trendmicro that can block specific websites. Adults can also set limitations like how long a minor can access websites like Facebook.

Detective Rachelle Kunde says parents can even take a step further and download software to track every move a child makes on the internet from key strokes to instant messages. But when it comes down to it, it’s all about communicating with children and warning them about the dangers of online child predators. For a moment, the cyber predators are hiding behind a computer screen, but the threat can become real in a flash.

Kunde said, “There is really no line that most of these people aren’t willing to cross.”

Local law enforcement groups do presentations for church groups, schools, day cares and other organizations. If anyone is interested in setting up a workshop with law enforcement about online safety and predators, Kunde says to contact Detective Erin Pape at the Davenport Police Department. 563-326-7979

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