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Across the region, state police in Maryland and Virginia have received thousands of tips about possible child exploitation routed into their Internet Crimes Against Children task forces so far this year, helping lead to hundreds of arrests. Jane Burns, who supervises the Fairfax County Police Department’s child exploitation unit, likened it to putting your hand in a bucket of sand.“You pull it out and there’s others to fill it right back in.” Back inside the conference room, the detective’s computer screen lit up with private messages from other users in the chat room.Sometimes, even decades later, the victims, now adults, are still fighting to get the photos taken down.That’s a reality authorities say children and parents in Prince George’s County, Maryland, are now facing after the recent sentencing of a former substitute teacher and basketball coach on child pornography and child sex abuse charges.As the detective monitored the chat room, a smartphone occasionally buzzed — messages from a man who had spent the past few days trying to get illicit pictures from what he thought was a teen girl.The conversation started with creepy and suggestive comments “about how he likes innocence,” the detective said, scrolling through some of the messages.
I’m going to upload your pic.’ Then, he follows through and said, ‘They’re on a porn site.’” The detective knew the man was bluffing.
“It doesn’t take much to get pictures,” the detective said.
Predators try to charm and pressure kids for suggestive or outright pornographic images.
For the series “Preventing Online Predators,” WTOP goes behind the screen with the undercover detectives who take on fake child personas to identify and interact with online predators — and build cases against them. For the series “Preventing Online Predators,” WTOP went behind the screen with the undercover detectives who take on fake child personas to identify and interact with online predators — and build a case against them.
The proliferation of smartphones and social media has provided more avenues for online predators to target children. Technology is making it easier for kids to be exploited online, officials said.The proliferation of smartphones and social media apps have provided more avenues for predators to obtain material that didn’t exist before the digital age, she said.