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Canadian County Helping Parents Protect Children

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CANADIAN COUNTY, Oklahoma -

The Canadian County Sheriff's Office is reporting a spike in online child predators. Investigators say they are discovering new cases almost weekly right now, a trend that started in late September.

Facebook, Tumblr and Snapchat are how kids stay connected to each other these days, but the sheriff's office says these platforms could also make them the perfect target for predators.

With nearly 40 arrests this year to date, the Internet Crimes Against Children unit has been busy not just in Canadian County, but throughout the state as part of an OSBI task force.

Lt. Adam Flowers said, “It’s always been there. We’re just getting more law enforcement agencies actively involved in this task force, not just local but nationally, internationally even.”

In many cases, the suspects initiate contact with investigators on decoy profiles and ads.

“We will just let them sit there and let somebody approach them,” said Flowers. “We have undercover computers that look for people trading child pornography. We try to make downloads.”

The two-man Canadian County ICAC team has to stay technology savvy in the evolving world of the Internet, aiming to stay one step ahead of their suspects. They also use equipment that scans hard drives and cell phones after they make an arrest, and can even recover deleted phone calls and messages.

Flowers said nowadays child predators often pretend to be a young teen, and their victim does not realize they are a target until the suspect demands photos as blackmail or uses messaging to lure them into a physical encounter.

“Your child can be victimized while they’re sitting in their bedroom in the middle of the night when you think they’re safe behind a locked door,” said Flowers.

Flowers believes no matter how many they arrest, there will always be people looking to prey on kids. He said that is why it is so important for parents to monitor their children's phones and online profiles, and report any suspicious activity to police.

“They need to know exactly what this technology can do,” Flowers said. “They need to know how they can prevent it or at least monitor it before it reaches a point of no return.”

The Canadian County ICAC team does educational seminars for both kids and parents throughout the community. If you would like them to do a presentation for your organization, contact Lt. Adam Flowers at (405) 262-3434.

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