REDMOND, Wash. - Redmond Police launched an initiative in May to catch potential child predators, and they have already made several arrests—including a school psychologist and hospital worker.
In this initiative, detectives used fake profiles in location-based social networking and dating apps to get into contact with people. Throughout the investigation, detectives frequently told suspects they were talking with 14- or 15-year-old girls.
Suspects continued with their sexual conversations, believing the detectives were actually minors.
On May 19, detectives arrested a 57-year-old Yakima man, who said he was working in the area on a road construction project. After weeks of sexual conversations, he suggested they meet at Downtown Park in Redmond, where police were waiting to take him into custody. The King County Prosecutor's Office said he has been charged with communicating with a minor for immoral purposes.
On Sept. 3, a 46-year-old Tacoma man was arrested. He believed he was talking with a 14-year-old girl. Detectives received photos from the man, which through meticulous investigation, they were able to learn he worked as support staff for a King County hospital. The King County Prosecutor's Office said he has been charged with communicating with a minor for immoral purposes.
Most recently on Oct. 8, detectives arrested a 49-year-old man who works as a psychologist at Monroe High School. He is currently being held at the King County Correctional Facility on four counts of communicating with a minor for immoral purposes.
A representative with Monroe School District said, "the allegations do not involve students of the district in any fashion." The representative confirmed the suspected psychologist was placed on administrative leave. Further stating, "During this leave, the staff member is not permitted on district property, to participate in district events, or have contact with any students of the district. The district is cooperating with law enforcement and has started an internal investigation. "
"Children are at risk of being the victim of online child predators anytime they use social networking apps," said Redmond Police Chief Darrell Lowe. "I’m proud of our officers and detectives for their dedication to keeping our children safe. With the increasing number of social networking apps, it is more important than ever for parents of teens to be vigilant about their child’s online activity and to have open conversations about appropriate behaviors."
Chief Lowe said it is important for parents to monitor what apps their kids are using.
"Don’t be your child’s friend, and by that I mean understanding what apps they’re using, understand what their online activity is. And have that hard conversation that if an individual online starts communicating with them In a sexual nature, that’s not appropriate. Even if they believe that individual is a minor as well, those are the types of conversations that parents need to be having with their kids and to monitor their activity because there are a number of applications that kids have access to. And then oftentimes the predators will then befriend an individual," said Lowe.
He said some key words parents should look out for is if someone requests to move the conversation "offline."
"If someone that your child has met online is now suggesting that [they] go offline or go to a different platform, those are some significant red flags because many times they will take the child to a platform that is encrypted and not easy to monitor," said Lowe.
If you or someone you know is the victim of online sexual exploitation, Redmond Police urge you to call your local police department or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
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