The ICAC Unit was formed at the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office a year ago. It is a two-man task force headed by Detective Sgt. Dewayne Scoggins and detective J.P. Allman. The unit is in partnership with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
ICAC detectives seek out individuals preying on children on the Internet, whether it be through solicitation through social networking sites or those who produce, possess or distribute child pornography.
“This is a very important conquest that J.P. and I have taken on. We feel like we make a big difference. There have been a lot of people over the past 8 to 10 months that we have put in jail,” said Scoggins.
Through the ICAC Unit’s investigations, 19 people have been charged with various Internet crimes against children since January in Bradley County. Scoggins said charges are currently pending against seven other individuals.
“This happens right here in Cleveland more than what you would believe,” Scoggins told Rotary members.
According to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, one in seven youth online (10 to 17 years old) received a sexual solicitation or approach over the Internet and one in 25 were asked to meet in-person.
The age of technology has made it easier for predators to commit their crimes, according to Scoggins.
“It’s very easy to hide behind a computer and have the whole world at your fingertips to view or trade child porn,” he said.
In addition to “catching the bad guys,” another mission the ICAC Unit has set out to accomplish is educating young people about the dangers of cyber-bullying and sexting.
Not only can sexting and cyber-bullying lead to sexual exploitation, harassment, embarrassment and, in extreme cases, suicide, but many young people are unaware sending nude photographs is illegal.
“If a 16-year-old girl takes a nude photograph of herself and sends it to her boyfriend, she has committed three felonies. By taking the picture, she’s manufactured child pornography, by having the picture in her phone she’s in possession of child porn and by sending it she’s distributing. Even if it’s a picture of herself, it’s still illegal for a minor to do this and they can be charged,” said Scoggins.
The ICAC Unit is currently seeking public funding to purchase software, which is in the form of an online game, to implement in local middle schools. The program is aimed to teach students about Internet safety.
If you would be interested in contributing to the fund, contact Scoggins at the Bradley County Sheriff’s Office at 728-7300.