BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) – Do you know who’s talking to your children online? Investigators in our state say there are more predators out there in our area than parents can even imagine.
“You know these predators have such easy access to kids,” an undercover detective said. “It’s so easy to contact anybody anywhere.”
“As far as what I’ve seen no child is safe if they are online,” Special Agent Brooke Walker with the state’s Internet Crimes Against Children unit said.
Text messages, social media, video games— these are the weapons of choice for online predators. The investigators who seek these kinds of criminals out say all they need to hurt a child is internet access.
“Working their way into that child’s life, gaining trust, gaining the ability to move from stranger to friend,” Walker said.
“They’ll ask personal, you know general personal questions for a short period of time and it almost always turns to sex,” the undercover detective said.
Last year, the state’s Internet Crimes Against Children unit got 1300 tips—that’s more than three every day. Special Agent Walker says the unit goes after predators they know have made contact with a child.
Walker said they seek to help “children that are currently being victimized, children that need to be rescued out of that situation.”
We rode along with Walker’s team as they investigated two suspected online predators who live just a few miles from each other in Shelby County.
One of those suspects—Terry Crumpton—was arrested. He’s 71 years old and confined to a wheelchair. They took a computer as evidence. Special Agent Walker says he’s charged with using the internet to lure a child into his home.
“That’s correct, he was trying to entice a minor to his residence for sexual purposes,” Walker said.
I also spoke with an undercover detective who actively tries to catch predators before they abuse children. He does it by pretending to be a child.
“They believe that I’m a 14, 15 year old child. Sometimes it’s a girl, sometimes it’s a boy. I’ve had them contact me and in the same day they’ll initiate a meeting for sex and show up,” he said.
The detective says by getting suspected criminals to come to them first, they’re saving lives.
“We’ve arrested some that had what we call rape kits in their cars, which is a rope, duct tape, razor blades, box cutters. If this had really been a child we would have at the very least been working a rape, at the worst a homicide possibly,” he said.
These investigators say the best way to protect your child is to talk them now about being safe online. Make sure you know who they are talking to. They suggest telling children they won’t be in trouble if a stranger does reach out to them. They say parents should encourage kids to always tell them if they get a message from someone they don’t know.