Posts tagged ‘Sex Offenders’

It’s 2009 – Do You Know Where Your Kids Are?

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Today’s teenagers are speeding down the information superhighway with no seatbelt, and many concerned parents don’t know which way to steer the wheel.  Every generation of parents have to worry what their children are up to.  Parents seek to discover what their children are trying to communicate and more importantly who is communicating with them.  With teenagers especially, this task becomes even more difficult because they are not very cooperative.  In today’s culture, children are not looking for trouble on the streets late at night, they are doing it from the privacy of their own bedrooms.  The problem with this is sexual predators are doing the same thing.  Predators have found a very comfortable and seemingly safe environment to devise easily executed scams to meet, mingle, manipulate, and seduce kids.

One of today’s fastest growing websites for teenagers is MySpace.com.  You may have never heard of MySpace but I can guarantee your children probable have.  MySpace describes itself as “a place for friends”.  Kids chat, mingle, maintain online journals known as “blogs,” and post information about themselves and their friends.  On the surface this seems like an innocent concept and it can be if children take safety precautions.  It can also become a great intelligence source for predators who want to hurt children.  When a typical teenager is walking down the street late at night they have their guard up.  They are ready for anything that seems dangerous and have a plan of action.  When many of these same kids are on the internet late at night they let their guard down.  This is exactly what predators are waiting for.  MySpace is not alone; Xanga, LiveJournal, and Yspy are some other online internet blog sites, which act as late night social hubs for teenagers.

Exactly how big is the problem of predators soliciting children on MySpace? “The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children has received at least 288 MySpace-related complaints, according to U.S. Attorney Mary Beth Buchanan in Pittsburgh.”

The good news for parents is that MySpace and the National Center For Missing & Exploited Children have recently teamed up and will be working together to make MySpace a safer environment for kids by setting age limits for users and policing the site on a more regular basis.  With 69 million members, these two groups will have their hands full and will need help from parents.

What can parents do to protect their children?  The most important thing is education and observation.  However, you can consider the appropriateness of the following:

1. Don’t allow your kids to have a personal computer in their bedroom.  Keep the computer in an area where there is less privacy, such as the family room.

2. Look at your children’s internet profile for sites such as MySpace and set up an account and get familiar with the site.

3. Make your children “lock down” their profiles.  This allows only their friends to see personally identifiable information.

4. Look at their “buddy” lists.

5. Look at the instant messenger history on the computers they use.

Instant messenger history can give parents a sense of what their children are communicating online, but only if parents can decipher what is being communicated.
To make a parent’s job even more difficult, kids are using codes when communicating by instant messenger, or text messaging between cell phone users.  As with any form of such communications it can be used for good or bad.  They can be used to communicate between your child and a long time friend or an online predator.

The following example illustrates how some kids communicate in ways parents may not understand.  Dialogue that seems innocuous and benign may in fact be very serious and require attention.  Parents cannot be expected to see the warning signs if the signs are in a different language.

Terry:   Hi Katie!
Katie:   DIKU?
Terry:   Terry!
Terry:   From school.
Katie:   MorF?
Terry:   MOTOS! NIFOC!
Katie:   TMI!!
Terry:   PANB?
Katie:   No, working.
Terry:   Lookin’ for LTR?
Katie:   LTS!
Terry:   WTGP?
Katie:   Sure, W/E.
Terry:   O.K.
Katie:   P911, G2G!
Terry:   CUL.

Now let’s look at the same chat after it has been deciphered:

Terry:   Hi Katie!
Katie:   Do I know you?
Terry:   Terry!
Terry:   From school.
Katie:   Male or Female?
Terry:   Member of the opposite sex.
Katie:   Too much information!!!
Terry:   Parents are nearby?
Katie:   No, working.
Terry:   Looking for long term relationship?
Katie:   Laughing to myself!
Terry:   Want to go private?
Katie:   Sure, whatever.
Terry:   O.K.
Katie:   Parent alert! Got to go!
Terry:   See you later.

It is crucial for parents to know not only with whom their children are communicating with but also what is being communicating.  For more information on online chat abbreviations log onto www.missingkids.com.

So what can parents do when all else fails? There are several commercially available monitoring programs available such as Child Protector Internet Filter, Parental Controls 2.0.5, KidsBrowser 3.1.1, and Safe Eyes 2006 2.0.  For a small cost these programs can tell you exactly what your children are doing and help you steer the wheel.

Some other valuable resources for parents are: www.i-safe.org , www.safekids.com, and www.Protectkids.com.

Detective Wayne Halick is a Licensed Private Detective and the agency director of Millennium Investigations, Inc.  http://www.dadsdetective.com/

You can e-mail Detective Halick at halickpi@sbcglobal.net. His agency is located at 358 W. Army Trail Road, Unit 140-355, Bloomingdale, Illinois 60108. Their telephone number is 630-543-5500.

March 4, 2009 at 4:45 pm Leave a comment

Are You Overprotective Enough?

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On my desk I have a product a fellow detective gave me to check out. It is a GPS locator watch for children. It’s big and bulky. It has a blue space theme on it to appeal to children. The wristband locks on to your child’s wrist and alerts parents if and when the ban is removed. Does this sound crazy? Does the word overprotective come to mind? Last week my daughter tripped and fell. She bumped her head on her toybox and started to cry. I rushed over in a panic to make sure she was all right. In my haste I tripped over my dog and nearly fell myself. My wife joked I was being overprotective. In the end the only thing that was damaged was my pride.

As a detective who sees children abducted and kidnapped each day, I wonder where the threshold between overprotective and safe lies.

Every year thousands of children are reported missing. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), as well as many law enforcement agencies, separate missing children into the following categories; family abductions; endangered runaways; non-family abductions; and lost, injured, or otherwise missing children. In most cases the perpetrator is someone the parents or child knows, and that person may be in a position of trust or responsibility to the child and family. As a detective who handles mostly child custody and divorce cases I see parental or family abductions most frequently. The above categories raise the question to us, as parents, “who can we trust?” The most frightening proposition for many parents is the reality that we cannot be watching our children every minute of every day.

The good news for parents is we are not alone in the fight to protect our children. While there is no substitute for a protective parent there are some very good resources to available to parents who want to utilize them.

Most states have adopted a version of a law called Megan’s Law. Megan’s Law is named after Megan Kanka, a 7-year-old New Jersey girl who was raped and murdered by a convicted child molester who was her neighbor. Megan was murdered in 1995. At the time of her murder the local police department was not allowed to release sex-offender information to the community. Megan’s case caused a movement in the protection of children. On May 8, 1996, President Clinton signed a federal law allowing public access to information about sex offenders. Most states now have a sex offender registry on the Internet which lists offenders and their crimes. This is now a tool parents today can utilize to protect their children. Today a list of sex offender sites can be found on the FBI’s website, http://www.fbi.gov/hq/cid/cac/states.htm.

Many years ago I received a call from a father who wanted me to conduct background checks on his daughter’s teachers and the parents of his daughter’s friends. I was surprised at first by the request, and then I thought about how logical the request was. We read every day about children being victimized by people in positions of authority. Most parents don’t take the next step and check out the people who are in contact with there children. I advised the client that the background investigation probably would not yield anything criminal. But the client explained that he was paying for something priceless – piece of mind. The next time his daughter spent a night at her friend’s house he knew who was having contact with his daughter. He explained he has spent money on extra airbags for his car, special software for his computer, and even bought a more expensive television that offered parental controls so he could limit the channels his daughter could watch. After I completed the investigation I called him and gave him the results. The father of one of his daughter’s friend had been convicted two years prior for aggravated assault. Another one of his daughter’s friends had parents who were going through a divorce. The thing that made this case significant was that there were allegations of abuse. I asked him what he was going to do with this new information. He said he would not bar his daughter from contact with the families in question but would make sure he was present when they visited or would have his daughter’s friend’s play at his house. This is one case where a father’s instincts may have saved his daughter from harm.

Not all parents need to hire a private detective. There are steps parents can take to protect their children, such as:

1. When in a public place make sure you establish a “meeting place” for your family in the event one member gets lost.

2. When at a retail store point out to your children security guards and cashiers so they know who the safer strangers are.

3. Make sure your children know how to contact you if someone finds them. They should know their phone number and address in the event of an emergency. For younger children attach an I.D. card to their clothes similar to a dog tag that someone can easily see if they get lost.

4. Routinely check the sex offender site for your city and state for updated sex offender registration.

5. At least once a month walk with your school age children to their friends’ houses and to school. Be especially conscious of places where people can hide. If you think something is unsafe explain to your child why you think that and recommend a different side of the street or a new route altogether.

6. Explain to your children the importance of being in groups. Sex offenders and others looking to victimize children are usually intimidated by groups of children and are looking for children who are left alone.

Here are some additional tips from the NCMEC:

1. Don’t forget your older children. Children aged 11 to17 are equally at risk to victimization. At the same time you are giving your older children more freedom, make sure they understand important safety rules as well.

2. When you speak to your children, do so in a calm, non-threatening manner. Children do not need to be frightened to get the point across. Fear can actually work at cross-purposes to the safety message, because fear can be paralyzing to a child.

3. Speak openly about safety issues. Children will be less likely to come to you if the issue is enshrouded in secrecy. If they feel that you are comfortable discussing the subject matter, they may be more forthcoming to you.

4. Do not confuse children with the concept of “strangers.” Children do not have the same understanding of who a stranger is as an adult might. The “stranger-danger” message is not effective, as danger to children is much greater from someone you or they know than from a “stranger.”

5. Practice what you talk about. You may think your children understand your message, but until they can incorporate it into their daily lives, it may not be clearly understood. Find opportunities to practice “what if” scenarios.
6. Teach your children that it is more important to get out of a threatening situation, than it is to be polite. They also need to know that it is okay to tell you what happened, and they won’t be a tattletale.

I called the friend of mine who was a Detective and told him I had just one question about the GPS watch he let me borrow. Is it available for adults?

Detective Wayne Halick is a Licensed Private Detective and the agency director of Millennium Investigations, Inc.  http://www.dadsdetective.com/

You can e-mail Detective Halick at halickpi@sbcglobal.net.  His agency is located at 358 W. Army Trail Road, Unit 140-355, Bloomingdale, Illinois 60108. Their telephone number is 630-543-5500.

March 2, 2009 at 6:02 pm Leave a comment


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