LAUREL COUNTY, Ky. (WYMT) – Kentucky State Police Electronic Crime Branch recently arrested a Trigg County man as part of an Undercover Internet Crimes Against Children investigation.
33-year-old Sean Hillock was arrested for attempting to engage a minor in sexual acts, a situation that several law enforcement officials said happens all too often.
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“Often times its some of the social media platforms where we see the most problems,” said Laurel County Sheriff’s Office Public Affairs Officer Gilbert Acciardo. “We see threats sometimes on there, we see people misrepresenting themselves to individuals and especially to kids, if their parents haven’t talked to them about internet safety and social media safety.”
Kentucky State Police trooper Matt Gayheart said predators flock to common social media apps but also attempt to connect with kids through other, lesser-known platforms.
“It’s one of those things we see a bunch of different communication style apps pop up. You know, we have the more popular ones like Tiktok, Snapchat, things like that, but there are other ones people aren’t aware of like Kik and Open Box and things like that, that may not be monitored by parents,” Gayheart said.
Gayheart added although every predator has a certain preference as to who they look for, most of them go into these conversations with a game plan.
“So they’ll start to try to groom them in the sense that they’ll try to pull them away from family and friends, people that would advise them, obviously its a bad situation and not to engage in that conversation,” Gayheart said.
The conversations between kids and predators often begin innocently, but can sometimes lead to predators asking for inappropriate images or videos in a plan to potentially extort their victim.
“People need to know if someone is engaging in that type of activity and people in the community need to be aware that that’s going on, but I do encourage everybody to make sure you report that to law enforcement so that we can take the appropriate steps to cease that action,” Gayheart said.
Acciardo added caregivers should be monitoring their kids’ online presence, especially kids under age 15.
“Sit down with your child and talk to them and tell them that just because it’s on the internet or on a social media platform, doesn’t mean that it’s safe, and that people can misrepresent themselves. They’re faceless and nameless,” he said.
Acciardo said kids should never engage with strangers online or share personal details about themselves, including their age, name and where they live or go to school.
“They’re your child forever, even when they get older, but especially when they’re young and impressionable, you need to monitor their activity and see what’s going on, and you can do it in the right fashion,” Acciardo said.
Acciardo also said kids should never send photos or post photos online unless they have their parents’ permission.
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