Kelley Cradduck, the new Benton County Sheriff, said the number of online predators is on the rise and that child molesters are using chat rooms and social media sites to gain access to kids.
The sheriff’s office is now stepping up efforts to keep children safe from online predators.
“We see a real need to create this Cyber Crime Unit,” Cradduck said. “What we have is an overwhelming amount of information that we know child pornographers are sharing these files and going back and forth and doing these illegal activities online yet we didn’t have the man power that was assigned to it to take care of it.”
As for how many internet predators are out there, Cradduck said it’s a lot; but he is confident their Cyber Crime Unit will put a significant dent in that number.
“How many of them are there? I think that everyone would be surprised to see just how many are right here in our own backyard, the numbers are astounding,” he said.
Trained deputies from the Benton County Sheriff’s Office go online and impersonate underage people, interacting with adults who are looking for sex.
“We are going to work on catching predators and working on cyber crime incidences,” said Sgt. Dennis Schumacher with the Cyber Crime Division. “This area over here is where we are going to be doing forensic examinations and then this area is going to be investigations.”
Sgt. Schumacher started the Cyber Crime Division in 2004. With the addition of two more people, he thinks the team will be successful.
“I`ve been doing it by myself up until this point and I have been wanting to get it to grow to this and I`ve been so swamped with everything up to this point so adding two more people, well, I`m going to keep them busy,” Schumacher said.
The Benton County Sheriff’s Office is already operating its Cyber Crime Unit but does not have all of the equipment yet. They expect to have the rest of their equipment including computers and other electronics in within the next week.