State police launch education program to combat internet crimes against children

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (Feb. 15, 2016) - Indiana State Police announced a new statewide education program to help children avoid becoming victims of Internet crime.

Captain Dave Bursten said members of Indiana’s Internet Crimes Against Children task force were training three civilian youth educators to make presentations in Indiana schools, churches and other organizations.

“The goal is for each one of these youth educators to provide 100 programs between now and the end of the year,” Bursten said.  “So we’re looking at 300 presentations with the expectation of reaching at least 10,000 between the ages of 8 and 18.”

The educators are being trained by some of the same people who investigated recent high profile cases involving former Subway spokesman Jared Fogle, and former Park Tudor basketball coach Kyle Cox.  Bursten said requests for school presentations were beginning to take investigators away from active cases.  The newly-hired full time educators will now make presentations, allowing investigators to devote all their time to active investigations.

Bursten said the planning for the education initiative has been in the works for some time, but the public announcement proves timely as cases like Jared Fogle and Park Tudor.

“There does seem like there’s been a rash of these investigations,” Bursten said.  “There have been other schools that have had coaches or other staff that had improper, or alleged to have had improper relations with students.”

The presentations, which are still being scheduled, will cover the following topics:

  • Online child sexual solicitation
  • Online child extortion, also known as sextortion
  • Online production of child pornography
  • Online bullying, also known as cyberbullying
  • Online radicalization mitigation to reduce the recruitment of youth by terrorists and criminal extremists.

One overarching message will stress the permanent nature of young people sharing explicit photos and videos with anyone online, even with those who are thought to be trusted friends.  Bursten said teens often don’t think clearly about the possible ramifications of such action.  A falling out with a girlfriend or boyfriend can often lead to explicit material being shared and used to victimize a teen.

“Many young people do not realize that one lapse in judgement can follow them virtually the rest of their lives,” Bursten said.  “Once it’s out, it’s out.  There’s no putting the genie back in the bottle.”

Bursten encouraged parents to attend the presentations and have open dialogue with their children, who may not be thinking clearly about the potential impact of being influence by a friend, or a teacher or coach who is trying to take advantage of them.

Bursten also encouraged parents to have conversations with the education presenters, who are being trained to gather information and bring it back to investigators with the task force.

“Aside from educating people on how not to become a victim, that we will probably come across cases where people have been victimized and these youth educators will be able to direct them to our Internet Crimes Against Children investigators.”

Of the 61 ICAC task forces in the country, Indiana’s is the first to hire full time youth educators.  The program is being funded by a grant from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, which means there will be no cost to a school or other youth organization who schedules a presentation.

Requests for more information or to schedule a presentation can be emailed to: ICACYouthEd@isp.in.gov.

 

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