State, local efforts underway in Davidson County to reduce the number of children targeted in internet crimes

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DAVIDSON COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — A partnership between North Carolina Department of Public Instruction, the State Bureau of Investigation and the organization The Third Talk aims at reducing the number of children exposed to sexually explicit content online.  

A newly released video series is meant to help families start conversations about what children see online and keep them safe from online predators.

According to the SBI’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, the number of cyber tips they received from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has recently doubled.  

“One case is one case too many,” said Davidson County Sheriff Richie Simmons. 

So far this year, Davidson County deputies have worked 28 cases involving child pornography. 

“We’ve performed about 50 search warrants through houses and locations and seized about 116 phones which we download in our forensic lab,” he explained. 

That lab has helped investigators solve several high-profile cases starting in February of this year. A Davidson County teenager was abducted and found 10 days later in Arkansas. 

Simmons says there were three other cases of missing 12-14 year-olds who communicated with strangers online.  

“Two that we were able to locate the victims outside the state, one in Arkansas, one in Florida. The others we located in the state,” he said on Friday. 

Through the county’s TAME Program, or Teenage Alcohol and Marijuana Education, Simmons is bringing district court judges and district attorneys into classrooms this year. 

“We’re trying to warn these kids before they ruin their lives, by embarrassing themselves, by being charged…God forbid that they get taken,” he said. 

He urges parents to limit kids’ access online to better protect children. 

“You don’t know who or what you’re talking to. You wouldn’t let them in your house, so don’t open the door by opening your computer. If some of these people showed up at your door, you would call us. If they show up at your computer, you let them in. It doesn’t make any sense at all,” Simmons said. 

According to the SBI, cybertips often involve adults pressuring minors to produce sexually explicit photos or videos. If they are successful in obtaining the images, the adult predators may then use them for blackmail to compel the children into meeting for sex.   

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