HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – A task force meant to keep children safe from sexual predators is busier than ever as social media becomes more and more available and popular amongst children.
The ICAC—Internet Crimes Against Children—task force is made up of the Attorney General's Office, The Horry County Solicitor's Office, and The Horry County Sheriff's Office. The task force wants parents to be aware of who their children are connecting with, constantly available to and what they are talking about with those people. Members of the task force go online to connect with the very people who may be trying to contact underage children before they're able to.
Not only are task force members monitoring sites like Facebook, Twitter, Backpage, Craigslist and various other social media apps, they've also been able to tag child pornography. If a person tries to download material that's been tagged as child porn, police are more easily able to identify them.
The task force says it's easier than parents may think for a sexual predator to connect with children through social media and other internet sites. Which is why wherever the predators go, the task force follows.
There's a lot of people out there that tell a child they're fourteen and they're a young girl, when in fact they're a 50-year-old man," Sergeant Lori Avant said.
"A 30, 40, 50-year-old man doesn't have the best intent for a 12, 13, or 15-year-old," Jimmy Richardson added.
"They may tell them that they are in North Myrtle Beach when they are really in the same town they're talking with a child," Avant explained.
The task force says unfortunately technology has made it even easier for sexual predators to connect with children.
"Well you got to do is sit on a computer and seek them out and they're there and at one point you used to have to go into the house, and now predators are in every house by the click of a button," Richardson explained.
To help parents keep their children safe, the solicitors office provides a software called Computer Cop.
"Whether your child's been on Facebook, Twitter, or anything else, you get to see where they've been, what photographs have been downloaded, all of that stuff. You can hook the phone up and go through some apps inside the Computer Cop. You can find out," he added.
Computer Cop comes with more than 5,000 tags. Words such as dope, drugs, and kill are examples. Richardson says parents can also add tags of their own.
"Then if your kid's giving out your address, 'hey pick me up at so and so, 1313 Mockingbird Lane, ….when 'Mockingbird' comes up, it goes out to the parent," he explained.
Ultimately the task force is looking to catch predators before it's too late.
"If we can stop that not only before that life is shattered but the entire family around it, then good things are happening," Richardson said.
Parents can pick up a copy of Computer Cop to keep for free at any local library. The police are not automatically contacted through the software.