‘Trying to drain the ocean with a tablespoon’: Fighting online predators

One police department's fight to track down online predators

KENTON COUNTY, Ky. (FOX19) - Kenton County Police Detective Brian Jones works in a tiny, cluttered room.

His full-time job is to bust people creating, possessing and sharing child pornography.

He also hunts down predators trying to entice children online for sex.

Kenton County Police Department Detective Brian Jones sits in a cramped office, trying to hunt down potential online predators
Kenton County Police Department Detective Brian Jones sits in a cramped office, trying to hunt down potential online predators (Source: WXIX)

“I never thought it was so prevalent,” Detective Jones said. “The sheer volume of the cases that I get where a child is targeted, that’s probably the most eye-opening.”

Information provided by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children
Information provided by the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (Source: WXIX)

Jones spends his time on websites, social media, and apps that some parents may not even know exist.

He uses various profiles, trying to weed out the worst of the worst.

"It's really a chess game because there's certain things I can do, certain things I can say, things that I can't,” Detective Jones said. “So trying to kind of navigate that, and still come across as a believable juvenile, can be difficult."

Jones takes his responsibility seriously because in some cases it’s a race against the clock.

“How quickly I can move this investigation forward is how quickly that child can be rescued,” Detective Jones said.

The Wall of Shame

Detective Jones pointing at the department’s so-called ‘wall of shame.’ Jones says if there was one more investigator, the wall would triple in size.
Detective Jones pointing at the department’s so-called ‘wall of shame.’ Jones says if there was one more investigator, the wall would triple in size. (Source: WXIX)

In Detective Jones’ cramped office is something Jones calls the ‘wall of shame.’

It features alleged predators who have either been arrested, convicted, or have cases going through the court system. There are currently 80 people on the wall.

Jones says if there was more than just one investigator, the wall would triple in size. “Trying to drain the ocean with a tablespoon,” Jones said.

The detective says the wall is a daily reminder of how critical his job is. “It’s motivation knowing that a lot of these guys are everyday people,” Jones said. “But knowing that they’re out there and that there’s room on the wall for the rest of them.”

A Statewide Effort

The Kentucky Internet Crimes against Children Task Force is comprised of about two dozen law enforcement agencies
The Kentucky Internet Crimes against Children Task Force is comprised of about two dozen law enforcement agencies (Source: Kentucky State Police)

The Kenton County Police Department is one of about two dozen agencies that make up the Kentucky Internet Crimes against Children Task Force.

The Kentucky State Police has nine agents devoted to investigating internet crimes against children complaints.

Detective Jones says parents play a critical role in stopping child enticement before it begins. “If there’s something you see on their phone that you don’t know the answer to, do some research on it,” Jones said. “Because all those apps that are out there, they could be used for child exploitation.”

Snapchat Safety

How predators use snapchat to lure children in real time

One of the apps that detectives are worried about is Snapchat.

When you create a Snapchat profile, you can identify yourself using different facial features, hairstyle and color, gender, and more.

Detective Jones is concerned because you can pose as anyone you want.

Snapchat’s Snap Map Feature

Snap Map allows you to see where your Snapchat contacts are at any given time. It also means your contacts can see you.
Snap Map allows you to see where your Snapchat contacts are at any given time. It also means your contacts can see you. (Source: WXIX)

Snapchat has a feature called Snap Map. Snap Map allows you to see where your Snapchat contacts are at any given time.

That concerns Melody Ghiloni, a local mother of two young girls. She says she first learned about Snapchat when her oldest was in 4th grade and her school principal held a ‘parenting in the digital age’ class.

"There's a lot of parents out there that don't know what's happening,” Ghiloni said.

Ghiloni realizes people with Snapchat’s Snap Map feature, potential predators, can track her daughters anywhere they are.

Melody Ghiloni - mother of two
Melody Ghiloni - mother of two (Source: WXIX)

"So if somebody was watching her, they could see her, know she’s walking to the park,” Ghiloni said. “You can tell when you’re walking. I mean anybody could grab 'em.”

She does her best to stay educated.

“We’re raising kids in a digital age that we know nothing of,” Ghiloni said. “We’re not privy to this, so we have to educate ourselves to stay in the know. You gotta have a certain degree of trust, but then again you don’t right? It’s hand in hand. We have to learn as we go.”

Three Ways to Protect Your Family

1. Delete the Snapchat app

One of the ways to protect your family - Delete the app
One of the ways to protect your family - Delete the app (Source: WXIX)

2. Turn off location services in your phone settings

How to turn off location services in app
How to turn off location services in app (Source: WXIX)

3. Change your Snapchat setting to ‘ghost’ mode. It allows you to see Snapchat contacts, but they can’t see you.

Change your Snapchat setting to 'ghost' mode
Change your Snapchat setting to 'ghost' mode (Source: WXIX)

Helpful Websites

Ohio Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children Facebook Page

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