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I’ve long been a fan of Sheriff Mike Brown’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC). I thought it was a great idea from the time it first got rolling as Operation Blue Ridge Thunder just before the turn of the century.
The Internet is a wonderful thing. I use it for research and I use it to buy things. It also makes it possible for me to talk with Oksana, my favorite Russian, via Skype without having to pay a long distance charge.
Unfortunately, just like ants, yellow jackets and flies at a picnic, there are always people who use good things for bad purposes. For example, the Internet has made it possible for pedophiles to trade child pornography on-line. The ICAC task force at the Bedford County Sheriff’s office has been responsible for bringing a number of these creeps to justice over the years.
The Internet has also eliminated the need for perverts to physically hang out in places where they can get access to young girls and young boys. They can meet victims on the Web.
Sheriff Brown’s office has been working to keep them from catching real children. One effort consists of sting operations. A pervert comes to Bedford County thinking he’s going to rendezvous with a 13-year-old girl only to find out that he’s really set up a meeting with a big, hairy sheriff’s deputy. I would love to see the expression on these guys’ faces when they discover who is waiting for them!
The other is an educational outreach to help keep children from being victimized. That’s where the movie “Finding Faith” comes in. Along with being very entertaining, with fast-paced action that rivets your attention, it points out two very important facts.
One fact is that making social network friends with people who you have never met in person is risky. People can misrepresent themselves on the Internet, use somebody else’s photo as their profile picture and potentially pretend to be whoever they want to be. This is how the man who kidnaps Faith, in the movie, makes contact with her. He claims to be a 16-year-old boy who lives in Florida, and he uses a photo of a teenage boy as his profile picture.
The other fact is that a young person does not have to agree to a rendezvous with an Internet predator to become a victim. When I was in the Navy, we were always warned not to discuss the material condition of our ship off base. You don’t know who’s listening. Various little bits and pieces of information, overheard by the wrong people, can allow a foreign intelligence service to put together a picture of the fleet’s readiness to deploy for combat operations.
This is how a young person can set herself up for a surprise visit from somebody who she does not want to meet. If she puts too much of the wrong type of information on a social networking site, somebody who wants to find her can put these bits together and figure out where she lives and where she goes to school without ever asking her. That’s how Faith gets kidnapped in the movie.
I would urge you to buy the DVD of the movie, which is available through the Safe Surfin’ Foundation, and watch it. It’s worth your time, and it also includes a scene that replicates a sting arrest. In this case, the deputy the predator meets isn’t a big, hairy guy, but a pretty young woman. Nevertheless, the bad guy is still very surprised to find that she isn’t 13 and he is in big trouble.
The money from the DVD sales goes for a laudable cause. Along with education, it will also provide funds for grants to help small police agencies set up ICAC operations. This is good because, the more cops on the Internet beat, the greater the chances are that some pervert will end up meeting a big, hairy cop instead of a real 13-year-old girl.