Fort Smith Police Dealing With Sexual Crimes Against Children

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FORT SMITH (KFSM) -- According to the United States Department of Justice, more than 1 million children have been the victim of sexual abuse.

Thousands of these crimes start with predators who use online sites to target young children, many of the victims under the age of nine.

A team of counselors at the Hamilton House in Fort Smith help sexually abused children in the area.

"We know one in four or five children will be molested before the age of 18," executive director Jackie Hamilton said. "I think that's a difficult thing to get in your head."

The team counseled 837 children last year using advocacy, therapy and forensic interviews.

"We use open ended questions and allow them to tell their story at their pace," forensic interviewer Kim Rickerd said.

Hand prints on the wall of the Hamilton House tell the stories of each child who has been at the center.

A team known as the street crimes unit at the Fort Smith Police Department arrest a dozen sexual predators on average.

"A lot of time these people will live out fantasies online and a lot of it is that and we have to differentiate between the fantasy and the people that will actually carry that out," a detective said.

Detectives with the street crimes unit said these people are using underground online sites and popular social media sites.

"The doctor was right over the line in Missouri and he wanted to, for us... for our detective to bring her children to him in Missouri for the purpose of having sex with them," Fort Smith Officer Jamie Hammond said. "He went so far as to get a hotel room plan a day and a time. He showed up, we showed up and he was arrested. How young did he think these children were? Five, nine."

Locally, two people were arrested and charged after investigators said they were bringing children from Northwest Arkansas to Crawford County for sex. One man in Barling was arrested after investigators said he responded to an online ad in order to have sex with a mother and her daughter.

The FBI has an entire team across the country dedicated to investigating sexual crimes against children. Even though the team in Fort Smith is only made up of four detectives, their work is bringing justice to local victims.

"We go out here and talk to people and they know this region is known for our aggressiveness in going after these offenders," a detective said.

Detectives said they work to file most of the cases within the federal court system in order to try and get longer jail time and sentences for the criminals.