Albemarle Officers Educate Kids to Fight Internet Crimes
Crimes against children can range from an online predator trying to make contact with your child, all the way to the unthinkable. Now, new numbers are shedding light the growing problem throughout central Virginia.
Albemarle County police have seen a spike in Internet crimes against children. There were more than 60 reports last year with 14 arrests. Police say they are on track to surpass that record this year with 40 reports and seven arrests in the first half of 2012.
On Monday, Albemarle officers are trying to prepare children for what they could encounter on the World Wide Web. They spent an hour at the Hope Community Center in Charlottesville teaching children about the dangers of the Internet. The kids learned what not to tell people online and who to call for help.
Master Deputy Kevin Sprouse, with the Albemarle County Sheriff's Office explained, "Treat the Internet as you would the real world."
Before the case gets to the police department or the courts, officers are trying to arm kids with knowledge to prevent them from becoming a victim.
The strike of the keyboard might seem harmless a casual conversation with someone on the Internet, but for kids it could make them the target of an online predator.
Sergeant Darrell Byers with the Albemarle County Police Department said, "It's a shift in the issues that we're seeing out there now. We obviously have to gear our personnel toward what it is we're seeing."
Albemarle County Commonwealth's Attorney Denise Lunsford said, "To some extent it's like drug cases in that if you have more resources, you would have a lot more cases."
More resources have arrived over the past five years and Albemarle now has four officers working around the clock to catch online predators before they strike.
Lunsford said, "The increased awareness is what is resulting in the increased reporting."
Deputies say that teaching the kids is great, but they also need parent involvement.