The “Don`t Be a Scumbag” campaign targeting child predators has launched in Benton County.
“If you’re a scumbag, the best way to put, I want to make sure that when you see this billboard you go ‘Oh no, the Benton County Sheriff`s Office is taking this seriously,’” said Detective Mike Lira, Benton County Sheriff’s Office.
Billboards are going up across Benton County.
“These are the people that prey on children, abuse children and in general just hurt children and getting away with it,” added Lira.
The Benton County Sheriff’s Office teamed up with ClearChannel OUTDOOR to get the message out.
“As you can see her hands are covered and I’m sure that’s one thing that law enforcement look into is that some of these victims of abuse, they’re afraid to talk,” explained Rebecca Jensen, ClearChannel OUTDOOR Creative Director, as she explained the ad she designed.
“The World has campaigns for MADD, Click or Ticket, Drunk Driving campaigns and we don’t have one for the predators,” Lira said. “I think the civilians don’t know what’s actually going on right now under their noses and I think it’s time we call these guys out.”
Child abuse, whether it’s physical or sexual, can happen anywhere. Recently, 6-year-old Jersey Bridgeman was raped and killed in Bentonville.
“Look what happened in our own county, a girl got hurt and she got killed, I think a scumbag did that,” said Lira.
According to the sheriff`s office 70 percent of children will accept online friendship requests regardless of whether they know the person or not.
“This day and age technology you have Facebook, you have texting , you have chatting and it seems that a lot of these predators are going after these young children and these teenagers through this sort,” said Jensen.
Records show in the last year Benton County had 78 child abuse cases. The county also had 32 cases of sex offenders failing to register.
“If you’re that scumbag that’s touching children, I want you to turn yourself in, is the ultimate goal,” Lira said. “And that’s going to be the focus in the future is, ‘Look we’ll give you a chance, but from this point on we’re going after you and we’re going to take this serious with our cyber-crime unit and we’re going to call you out,’” Lira said.
This past year, the sheriff’s office had 71 computer crime cases, the majority being child pornography.
To report child abuse you can call the Arkansas State Child Abuse Hotline at (800) 482-5964.
The sheriff’s office also recommends that parents visit the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children website for resources on how to protect children from internet predators.