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Officers collaborate to catch child predators online

By DAVID TEWES
Nov. 26, 2010 at 5:26 a.m.


TASK FORCE EFFORTSSo far in 2010, the task force has:

Had 262 state and 33 federal arrest warrants issued.

Initiated 539 investigations and arrested 158 people.

Received 417 cybertips.

Conducted 735 forensic exams.

Sexual predators using the Internet to entice children could be in for trouble if their plans involve Victoria.

The police department has joined a task force that includes law enforcement agencies from East Texas to the Rio Grande River that pool resources to go after predators.

"It's kind of like getting appointed to the Super Bowl team of these particular types of investigations," Police Chief Bruce Ure said. "We've now got resources at our disposal that are just incredible, if we need them."

And Victoria police stand ready to help the other agencies.

The group is called the Houston Metro Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

It includes 49 counties from Nacogdoches to Brownsville and about four or five counties from the East Texas border. Any time an agency needs assistance, the task force will provide services ranging from consultation to helping with prosecution.

Ure said the Harris County district attorney's office coordinates the program.

Lt. Michael Beyer with the Victoria Police Department said officers can use all the help they can get when they go after predators.

"You probably have a pretty good grasp of the Internet and how huge it is and how much opportunity there is for crime," he said. "It's very difficult to police."

Victoria police have already had a chance to use the task force in a case involving a predator living in Victoria.

"This guy thought he was talking to a 13-year-old when in fact he was talking to a police officer," Beyer said. "They sent us all the information and we got a search warrant and an arrest warrant."

The suspect confessed and the program worked like it should, he said.

The group provides training at no cost to improve the ability of officers to investigate Internet crimes against children. Beyer said Victoria will be sending officers to the training.

He said those types of crime may account for 5 or 10 percent of the department's workload from a personnel standpoint.

"But it's very serious when it happens," he said. "I don't want to play it down, because it's so dangerous, I think."

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