At their January Meeting, the Greater Wheeling Chapter learned how the Bethesda, Ohio Police department uses technology with their "Sexual Predator Internet Initiative Task Force”.
A police officer logs on as an underage decoy and waits while invitations to chat pop up all over the screen. The officer begins conversing with a couple of the names, but doesn't initiate any sexual discussion. The predator becomes more explicit with sex chat and many times offers to send materials to the child. The police are saving and backing up all chat sessions.
When the predator sends explicit information to the decoy, he has crossed the line, and police create his evidence file. Using tracking software and contacting his internet service provider, police are able to find out the perpetrator's name, address, police records and any other pertinent information. They send this file to the county prosecuting attorney's office. Bethesda Police Chief Jeremy Campbell says an investigation can take anywhere from two days to two months from the time of initial contact.
The proximity of the lab and the elimination of delays in processing evidence are boons to the prosecutors' offices. In Belmont County, Prosecuting Attorney Chris Berhalter finds that most of his cases are using this lab exclusively now that it's up and running. The ability to keep the evidence and investigation within the county and talk with the officers collecting and processing the evidence cuts hours — even days — from the investigation and prosecution. His office is able to write warrants and get the offenders off the street and off the computer. He translates that into protecting more children.
Thanks to the Greater Wheeling Chapter for sharing this story. Based on your post, the Twin City Chapter in Bloomington, IL contacted our own police department. Last night, a Criminal Investigation Analyst and the Supervisor of Detectives provided our chapter with a very informative presentation on Law Enforcement's Use of Mobile Technology. It's not CSI, but is impressive!