We arrive at week 4 in the 3rd class of the Enid Police Department’s Citizen Police Academy. The topic this week is child abuse and the department’s ICAC unit. What’s ICAC? Internet Crimes Against Children.
Our instructors for the evening were Sgt. Dustin Albright and Sgt. Bryan Hart. While our instructors in previous weeks were incredible, Albright and Hart worked together like a championship tag team. They seamlessly added to each other’s stories they shared.
A large part of the evening was devoted to child abuse. What is child abuse? Very simply, it’s the physical or emotional or sexual mistreatment of children. This was the toughest part to deal with or at least visualize for the group. We were told facts about cases and what had transpired in each instance. Then we were showed pictures. They can only be described as horrific, painful, and tragic. In some cases, the child died. In one case, the child was lucky and lived. These were all Enid case and there was no need to use cases from outside Enid, as this happens here all the time.
Child abuse does not always have to be physical. Often times, it can simply be neglect for the child’s basic needs. One example was given to us of a family living in a home in the dead of winter, with no heat, no running water. With a 2 month old baby. The house was filthy beyond anything that you could imagine. Trash was everywhere, including the baby crib, which is tragic. The baby should have been in the crib, but instead it was sleeping with the parents on a mattress on the floor. One night, they rolled over and smothered the baby. DO NOT EVER SLEEP WITH YOUR INFANT! EVER! When investigators arrived, they found feces virtually everywhere. Some canine and they suspected some was human. The baby’s diaper had not been changed in quite some time. Days…perhaps a week or more.
Sgt. Albright pointed out that unfortunately, sometimes they don’t always win. They aren’t always able to prove a case. “It’s tough to let go of those cases with not enough evidence,” he said.
The investigators expounded on how many houses they go into that are like that in Enid. This bothered me quite a bit. Why is it that we have codes for how our yard looks and how much freaking water we can spread on our yard, but people can live in homes with children and have no running water and dog (and in some cases human) shit all over the place?
We then progressed on to internet crimes, or ICAC. They discussed how child pornography began being traded over the internet. It had evolved into the digital age from the age of polaroid photos. Now, instead of polaroids, people have hard drives full of videos and photos that they can trade back and forth over the internet. They trade via peer to peer networks such as Limewire, eDonkey, and others.
The ICAC unit at the EPD was established in 2007. It started with just a few computers literally in a closet, but now has evolved into an operation that Albright said he checks daily. “Each morning, I walk in and check the networks to see if anything is going on.” They discussed how much time the detectives spend each day on the subject and it can vary from a couple of hours to even longer. While they do troll online using chat programs looking for people trying to pick up on children, they have recently had great success with online classified ads. Can you honestly believe someone is stupid enough to place an ad online saying that they would want to have sex with “anyone, any age?” Yeah. It happens. Seriously.
Albright and Hart both talked about it’s important for them to have a sense of humor. Even about something so serious. They see so much awful stuff, if they don’t get to laugh, it would literally drive them insane. They showed a video, which I found hilarious.
So, how can you protect yourself and most importantly your child? First, one of the best things you can do is secure your wireless networks. If you need help making sure your network is secure, head over to YouTube and I’m sure there is a video showing you how to do that.
Second, learn to identify the signs that your child may be doing something online they aren’t supposed to be doing.
- They spend large amounts of time online…especially at night.
- They receive email or phone calls from people you don’t know or from unknown people
- If you walk into the room and they suddenly turn the screen off or switch the screen to something else entirely.
- They seem withdrawn from normal activities.
You should have an open relationship with your children and tell them about the dangers of the internet. Use caller ID to monitor phone calls. Limit their access to the internet. You can do this from your administrator account on your own computer and limit access to the internet, emails, and instant messages.
One of the final things we discussed were registered sex offenders. Sgt. Albright administers the sex offender program at the EPD. In Oklahoma, there are 7069 registered offenders. They can not live within a 2000 ft radius of a school, park, or a registered day care center. They can be classified as habitual if they are repeat offenders, aggravated offenders are defined by law as any offender who is convicted or receives a suspended sentence or any probationary term for the crimes of Abuse or Neglect of Child/Child Beating (when sexual abuse or exploitation is involved), Incest, Forcible Sodomy, Rape in the First Degree, Rape in the Second Degree, Rape by Instrumentation, Lewd or Indecent Proposals or Acts to a Child Under 16, Sexual Battery of a Person Over 16, or any attempt to commit these crimes.
In addition, all offenders are classified on a scale of 1 to 3. 3 being the worst. The Oklahoma Department of Corrections defines the labels as such:
1. Offenders designated as habitual, aggravated, or assigned to level three, are required to register for life.
2. Offenders assigned to level two are required to register for 25 years from the date of the completion of their sentence if sentenced in Oklahoma, or for 25 years from the date of entering the state.
3. Offenders assigned to level one are required to register for 15 years from the date of the completion of their sentence if sentenced in Oklahoma, or for 15 years from the date of entering the state.
I think that the academy class found this particular class to be one of the most informative so far. See you next week.