More than 1,000 sex crime cases against ND kids investigated in 2022

More than 1,000 sex crime cases against ND kids investigated in 2022
More than 1,000 sex crime cases against ND kids investigated in 2022(wwsb)
Published: Jan. 12, 2023 at 9:19 PM CST
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - More than 1,000 cyber tips came across investigators desks in North Dakota last year; all involving sex crimes against children online. Just over 700 cases were investigated in 2021.

“I’m sure we’re just seeing a fraction of what’s actually happening out there,” Detective Heather Hames with the Cass County Sheriff’s Office said. Hames is also a member of the North Dakota BCI’s Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce.

Hames says self-produced child porn is something investigators like her see quite often, and it’s something she says parents and teens need to be more aware of.

“It doesn’t matter who you are, how old you are, if you possess that image it’s still against the law. So, if you have a 16-year-old who sends an image of themselves to another 16-year-old, both of those individuals can get into trouble for that,” Hames said.

As for apps, Hames says there isn’t just one that predators flock to more than others. She says anything with a messaging feature poses a threat for a predator to get in touch with your child.

“Anyone online can misrepresent who they are online. Just because they says that they’re 13 from West Fargo, doesn’t mean that they are,” Hames said.

“Predators, they’re in it for the long-haul. They don’t care if it takes months to build that trusted relationship with the child to get them to start sending images or meet up, that type of thing,” Tonya Jahner, another detective with the Cass County Sheriff’s Office said.

For parents, both Jahner and Hames say it’s important to be vigilant on the apps your child is using and the sites they’re visiting.

“There’s parental locks where (the child) has to request to download an application so you can see what they’re wanting to do online,” Hames said.

Both women also urge open and continuous communication with your child on the dangers social media and the internet pose.

“People that are online for predatory reasons, they’re going to go wherever the kids are,” Hames said. “It’s an uphill battle.”