I-Team Report: Trapping child predators - WNEM TV 5

I-Team Report: Trapping child predators

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Kristin Close did something many people have done at one time or another – accepted a Facebook friend request from someone she didn’t know.

“This person seemed like a decent person, but obviously not,” Close said.

She sells makeup and is always on the lookout for customers. After doing a little research, she added him to her personal page.

“I grew up in a criminal justice family, so we are very careful on who we add and who we let see our stuff. So, it was really shocking,” she said.

It was shocking because she recently found out the man is being investigated by the Michigan State Police for crimes against children.         

Close also happens to be an intern with the MSP Computer Crimes Unit. She said she never received any unwanted advances from the man, but was able to help MSP with their investigation.

“You can never be too careful with who you add on any types of social media. And just watch what you post and who you add, that sort of thing. Because like I said, this guy seemed pretty normal,” Close said.

The I-Team discovered the man is one of many suspected child predators MSP is working to catch every day.

Liz Rich is a detective sergeant with the Computer Crimes Unit. She said they make several arrests per month - all in an effort to keep children safe.

“That’s the whole reason we do this,” Rich said.

Rich said internet companies like Google, Yahoo, Facebook and others have a duty to report suspicious activity online.

Those reports go to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, which in turn passes that information to the Michigan State Police Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

That’s when Rich and her team spring into action.

“We contact the agency that is reporting it and we get the IP address and then we execute a search warrant for the IP address, which gets us an address and a location whoever owns that IP address,” she said.

Rich is keeping any details about the software used to trap a child predator close to the vest. She only said that it works. As you can imagine, there's a reason for that.

“We essentially don’t want to tell the bad guys how to get away with these crimes. We want to stop any predator out there from getting to their next child,” Rich said.

Rich wants online predators to know internet companies are also watching their every move and eventually, they will get caught.

“Trying to remain anonymous on the internet is what people think that they can do. And they think if they’re hidden in a chat room or if they’re only uploading to their drive accounts, their cloud accounts, nobody will ever know what they’re doing. But companies are watching it and they are mandated to report that. So, it will come back to us,” Rich said.

As far as Close goes, she is hoping her internship will lead to a career catching child predators, especially after her encounter with what is now a former Facebook friend.

“Kids can’t speak for themselves so we get to help them and speak for them. And that’s what I really love,” she said.

If you or your child see any suspicious activity online, you are asked to make a report to the CyberTipline.

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