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FBI and local agencies work to stop online predators

BEND, Ore. – An increase in predators reaching out to children online has caused the FBI to step in and make sure kids understand the dangers of social media and the internet.

This past weekend, the FBI made an arrest here in Oregon after a 19-year-old man in Troutdale was accused of exploiting children via social media.

This is what the FBI has deemed “sextortion,” which is when a predator reaches out over the internet and threatens or manipulates a kid into producing an explicit image or photo.

It’s why the FBI is making a big push to educate children about the dangers of the internet.

Bend police Lt. Juli McConkey said Monday that over the past five years, the department has definitely seen an uptick in these types of crimes.

McConkey said with changing technology, its important parents are aware of the types of apps that are on their children’s phones.

“I think it’s important that if parents were to look and see what kind of apps children have on their phones, to see if it is a social dating site, or any other type of media, or a meetup type site, kik, things like that,” McConkey said. “And to know what exactly the kinds of conversations your children are having on any of these apps are very important.”

McConkey said she was a part of some of these types of investigations over the past year, and there’s a team in Bend is dedicated to these types of crimes.

It’s something J Bar J Youth Services has seen in Central Oregon. They’re working not only with victims, but also working to teach kids about the dangers of the internet.

Paige Reinhart-Anez is a case manager for the “At: Project,” which is set up to help sexually exploited children.

The “At: Project” is a part of the Deschutes County Commercially Sexually Exploited Children (CSEC) group, which helps respond to these types of crimes.

Reinhart-Anez said they play a vital role for the community.

“Obviously the need is there, so we are meeting the need,” Reinhart-Anez said. “But we have seen that as we are reaching out and saying we are here, people are like, ‘Oh great, you’re here! I need you!’ So we have seen just the numbers go, up as our outreach has increased, and the task force has definitely started to dig its feet in and create space for the work to be done, and make those connections to really create that wraparound care.” 

Reinhart-Anez said the ultimate goal is to make sure they are a resource people can trust.

She also said it’s important for kids to speak up, if they’re a victim, and not be afraid or ashamed about it.

J Bar J is a 21 Cares for Kids partner, and you can click here for more information on their services.

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