Special State Unit Focuses On Keeping Kids Safe From Predators


UPDATED: Wednesday February 20, 2013 7:05 PM

The Ohio Attorney General is especially concerned about those who target children.

So he's created a special unit to go after them.

For example, two men were arrested a year apart with disturbingly similar stories. Each of the men had swimming pools used by neighborhood children. They each told the kids to change in the bathroom. The men secretly recorded the children undressing.

"I was ready to go ballistic,” said one family member.

Furious family members shared their outrage at what happened to their kids.

Richard Enyart was caught when a child spotted the camera. Daniel Fowler was caught when police raided his home for child pornography, and found cameras and video equipment. Both men are in prison.

Both of the men who taped kids also collected child porn.

These are Crimes Against Children, and the reason why the Attorney-General has started a special unit at the Bureau of Criminal Investigation.

“I think there’s nothing more upsetting than crimes against kids,” said AG Mike DeWine. “The unit covers anything where children are victims, but a major part is sexual predators.”

A generation ago, pornographic material was passed through the mail or by hand.  

But now, the internet provides a conduit for both knowledge and illegal images.  A special team of investigators hunts down those who share sexual pictures of kids as well as child predators.

“You think that your home is the safest place that your child can be, and generally it is.  But now there's this portal to the world and the sexual predator wants to get in your house,” added DeWine.

Justin Root and Rick Warner are investigators who prowl the internet for these criminals.

"When you get to the point when you are soliciting children for sex online, you have clearly progressed well beyond any argument that it's just a matter of curiosity,” said Justin Root.

They offered a demonstration in a real chat room. In this case, Root pretended to be the predator. Warner pretended to be a 12-year-old home with the flu.

The adult wants to know the age, gender, and location of the kid to determine how vulnerable he is.

"He's asking about mom, and I told him mom's at work,” said Warner. “We'll take the conversation wherever they are taking it."

During the demonstration possible predators tried to join the web chat.

"I've already had two different people, who I don't know, who've hit me up for conversation,” said Root.

The investigators said predators start with innocent conversation but soon ask questions about sex.

"They may turn the conversation where they'll say would you be interested in doing that with someone who's older? Would you be interested in doing that with me?” said Root.

Investigators are careful not to entrap predators, but they let predators snare themselves by violating state law.

BCI works with local law enforcement to arrest them. The Crimes Against Children unit is so new that no cases have gone to court yet.

But with over 100 cases pending, that will change in the next few months.
 
"If you can take a sexual predator off the street, you may be saving a young child's life,” said DeWine.

The investigators said to keep kids safe, parents should keep a sharp eye on kids and their internet access.

That means no computers in kids' room.  They should be in family areas instead. Check the screens. Ask kids who they are talking to, and how they know that person.

And limit the use of cell phones with internet access.

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