Bellefontaine police urge vigilance against online child predators

Bellefontaine Police are telling parents to stay vigilant as the department investigates a report over the weekend of an adult attempting to purchase photographs from a 10-year-old Logan County boy through the multimedia messaging app Snapchat.

Bellefontaine Police Chief Brandon Standley told the News-Sun that investigators believe the adult knew the boy through a mutual relationship with the boy’s family. Officers said they are still investigating the incident and the report came in on Sunday.

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“We are going to be obviously looking into the details of where (the suspect) lives and so on. Guarantee you we are going to go after him if the facts are known and we are able to collect enough evidence. Yes we will go after these people,” Standley said, adding that is why it is so important for young people to speak up.

Though the boy quickly reported the incident to his mother, Standley said it represents an alarming trend.

“We have seen an increase in the amount of instances where a sexual deviant is attempting to lure your child through social media to take inappropriate photos of themselves and send them back to the online predator,” the Bellefontaine Police Department posted on its Facebook page Monday morning.

In a separate social media message posted the same day, the department told local children “Don’t be scared of reporting this information to a trusted adult! We need your help in protecting other kids too.”

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Standley said in certain cases, online predators are using sexually explicit photos of children sent to them as a form of extortion. He said in those cases, children are persuaded to send those photos of themselves, then they or their families are told to send money or those photos will be shared online.

“Kids are being caught up in this. They are being manipulated online to trust these perverts and deviants,” Standley told the News-Sun on Monday. He said these types of incidents seem to be occurring more regularly in other counties after his department talked to area agencies both in and outside of Logan County last week.

The police chief said the purpose of his department’s Monday morning Facebook posts are to encourage parents in taking a proactive approach in how their children are using social media and the internet. He said his department has noticed that a majority of these incidents occurring in Logan County involve cellphones.

“Please please please talk to your children now before it’s too late. Before we have to keep investigating,” Standley said of his message to parents.

In June, Bellfontaine officers reported finding John Flood, who travelled from Columbus, in a car with a young local teenager during the middle of the night. Standley said that Flood and the teenager were strangers and met online. He said Flood was arrested at the time of the incident.

“After some questions, (officers) put two and two together, that this was a really dangerous situation that played itself out,” Standley said.

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