Over the past several years, law enforcement officials in North Dakota have seen a dangerous type of crime grow. Online predators are not only living within the boundaries of our state, but some of those from outside our borders are using the internet to lure children. So, the state`s top cop is helping officers across the state learn how to find, track and prosecute those criminals.
All week long, 30 local, state and federal law enforcement officers will be learning investigative techniques to help them catch predators. And they say this training will help make North Dakota an even safer place to live.
Loralyn Waltz is a sex offender specialist with the North Dakota Department of Corrections. She says learning how to find and prosecute offenders is an important way to keep North Dakota`s children safe. "We have seen that sex offenders are very manipulative and the internet is a highway for them to get right to pornography. That pornography is adult pornography as well as child pornography."
As a parole and probation officer, Waltz is able to conduct searches at any time on criminals, see their computers and cell phones, and says that`s a good way to find out what kind of life an offender is really living, not just what they`re telling officers.
"The only way we can do that is by confronting them, working with treatment staff and getting into their homes and seeing what`s actually going on," said Waltz
There are only four computer forensic scientists in the state, and that`s up from just one a few years ago. But it`s still not nearly enough. That means local law enforcement agencies need to conduct their own computer investigations.
"We need to send the message to the predators that they need to be careful too, because they never know who they might be in contact with, they might be conversing with a cop," said N.D. Attourney General Wayne Stenehjem.
He says when that happens, predators need to know that police are watching, they will get to them and prosecute them with help from this training.
Some who are taking this training say it`s important to hold sex offenders and other criminals accountable for their behavior, and this could be one more way to send them back to court.
"There are predators right here in North Dakota and they are molesting children here in North Dakota," siad Stenehjem. "We need to find them and prosecute them. That`s exactly what this program is designed to do."
Stenehjem says over the past two years, 50 search warrants have resulted in 20 cases of people actively engaged in molesting children.
Stenehjem says one thing investigators are learning are the different ways predators can contact children. He says video games like X-box and Wii have ways to interact with other players, and that can be an opening for predators, as well.