WILKES COUNTY, N.C. -- Investigators say tips about internet crimes against children have nearly tripled in the last five years in our state and the people tasked with catching the predators are having to work harder than ever.
“They deal with it every day and they see absolutely the worst of the worst of humanity,” said Chief Deputy David Carson, of the Wilkes County Sheriff’s Office.
This is no different in Wilkes County, where Carson says their tips have increased “substantially” in the last three years.
“They’re essentially overloaded and we wanted some assistance,” Carson said, of his investigators.
That assistance came in the form of grant money, part of our state’s two-year budget. Within, about $600,000 was set aside for things like equipment and training. The Wilkes County Sheriff’s Office was awarded $40,000.
“A child victim kind of tugs at our heart strings and gets us involved in a different mindset,” Carson said.
Not only will the money enable the deputies to stop and catch the predators, but also get the victims the help they need.
“Having a pathway to healing can put a child on a whole different track than if they had no resources,” said Shellie Bowlin, program director of Safe Spot, a child advocacy center which works closely with law enforcement.
“They’re sometimes weepy, they’ll keep their head down, their arms crossed,” Bowlin said, of juvenile victims when they first come into Safe Spot.
“Videos had been taken of them, pictures had been taken of them, they were not even aware of it,” Bowlin said. “They had no idea that their pictures were being plastered all over the child porn sites.”
Bowlin also added that children have been manipulated into meeting the predator in person.
“Then there’s a number of different ways that that can go horribly wrong,” she said.
For the sheriff’s office, which depends on state agencies to help build and complete a case, the grant will allow them to do more of the work themselves, and in turn, more quickly.