TN police departments using funding to catch online predators | #childpredator | #onlinepredator | #sextrafficing

SPRING HILL, Tenn. (WKRN) – It can start as a simple message or even a follow request, but police warn it could end up being a predator who’s trying to talk to your child online.

Often, we see the results of months or even years-long investigations. Law enforcement will announce the arrest of a cybercriminal, who thinks they are talking with a teen online, but it’s an undercover agent.

“So, unfortunately, we see a lot,” said Michael Foster with the Spring Hill Police Department. “We see everything from offenders reaching out to children through chat rooms or apps nowadays. Some of them just want to solicit pictures, nude images from them. Others want to meet them.”

Criminals existing in the digital world are a priority for the Spring Hill Police Department. These individuals can move across a wide range of devices. It’s why it’s no secret that law enforcement agencies across Middle Tennessee have been cracking down on the problem for decades.

“Unfortunately, they are getting younger and younger. So you have 10-year-olds and 11-year-olds online now and, unfortunately, it’s not deterring any predators. They still reach out to them and try to exploit them,” Foster explained. “Nowadays, everybody wants a photo; everybody wants a video, so we kind of have to have built-in excuses why we can’t send that out there, but…we’re still catching people.”

This year, Spring Hill joins three other counties in receiving funds through the Metro Nashville Police Department (MNPD) as part of the state’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. The money is awarded every year to law enforcement agencies and they can use the money toward equipment and training.

“[The funds allow] us to examine devices that we seize pursuant to a search warrant quicker. So that we can use that as leverage on a suspect to try to get a confession, versus having to send it out to an outside lab and having to wait six months to a year because they’re backlogged,” said Foster.

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The latest data from the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) show agents processed more than 1,000cyber tips from the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children. The TBI revealed the latest numbers, which is a nearly 30% increase from the previous year.

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