Created: 07/02/2014 10:02 PM
By: Erica Zucco, KOB Eyewitness News 4
The Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office Ghost Unit works in conjunction with the New Mexico Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force to bust child predators and save children from being exploited. While working to solve those crimes, they came across another problem – people taking photos from social media websites and using them for unintended purposes.
“There are websites out there that are completely legal by federal law, by state law, where people are finding pictures of teenage girls in bathing suits that they’re posting themselves, that their moms are posting,” Detective Kyle Hartsock said. “There are people who take these pictures, put them into a form, and they talk about what they would want to sexually do to these kids…still not illegal is the scary thing, but it happens. These pictures are manipulated to feed a dark urge that someone else has.”
Hartsock says they can’t arrest someone for it, but they can notify families if they recognize their pictures reposted. They can also use the sites as a way to lead them to more direct crimes against children.
Hartsock says the Internet landscape is rapidly changing, which creates new challenges for ensuring child safety. Deputies try to make sure they are up on all of the latest social media technologies and mobile applications, to meet kids where they are – and to see where predators could be lurking.
“It’s trying to find the people first who are creating new child pornography cause they are absolutely hurting kids, it’s happening right now, right this second. They’re our top priority,” Hartsock said. “To these kids, to these victims, these photographs and these videos – every time someone downloads them, they’re being revictimized again.”
Hartsock says everything his unit does is through either public information or under the authority of a search warrant. He says it is a tough job, but rewarding.
“Knowing where to look and how to exploit that to save children who’ve been victims of these horrible crimes,” Hartsock said.