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Officers explain how they track down online predators

Updated: Friday, June 27 2014, 05:35 PM EDT

WTOV9.com
OHIO COUNTY, W.Va. - After the arrest of two men Thursday night in Ohio County for soliciting minors on the internet, law enforcement officers are speaking out on the dangers online and explaining how they catch suspects.
Officials are becoming more and more familiar with how sexual predators work behind a computer screen.
"A lot of times what we see is older men posing as younger males trying to make a connection with underage females," Ernest said.
The Sheriff's Office receives tips periodically from the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, then assigns the case to an investigator.
"In my experience, I've gotten cases where I've actually had to go out and talk to the victim and maybe the suspect is usually in another state somewhere else," said Doug Ernest of the Ohio County Sheriff's Department.  "I'll talk to the victims and ask them what happened in this interaction."
Recent tips sent to detectives ended with more of a lesson than criminal charges.
"I use those opportunities to educate those involved," Ernest said. "Be aware of this, this stuff can happen and further their knowledge so they won't be a target in the future."
With technology always advancing and different apps and websites always coming out, it's hard to be aware of your child's online activities.
Ernest says it's important for parents to know what your kids are doing.
"As a parent, that would be my top two steps -- monitor what they are doing, who they are talking to. Monitor all their interactions and tell them if something happens let me know. Then obviously report it and take those steps after that."
Ernest says they have seen an increase over the years. They go to trainings to be up to date on social media sites and tools available during investigations.
"As technology advances, then so do predators and they learn how to use technology for their benefit," Ernest said. "It's up to us as law enforcement, parents, community to educate ourselves on how to combat that."
Ernest says he will continue to use these incidents as a tool to teach parents and kids about the dangers of the internet.


Officers explain how they track down online predators


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