Pedophile arrests climbing

Published 6:25 pm Tuesday, April 30, 2019

By Diana McFarland

Managing editor

Over the past five years, the Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office has logged 30 reports of possible child pornography and related crimes.  

Of those, 10 led to arrests, said Lt. Tommy Potter with the Isle of Wight County Sheriff’s Office. Potter said the remaining cases were inactive, unfounded or transferred to other agencies. 

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The increase in reports and arrests are due to the agency’s relationship to the Southern Virginia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which is based in Bedford County, said Potter.  

The Sheriff’s Office has two deputies training in Utah on how to find these predators, and at no cost to the county, said Potter.{mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

The arrest of a Norfolk man in March was the result of a class assignment as part of the training, said Potter. 

In that case, the investigator pretended to be a 14-year-old girl and the suspect came to Isle of Wight County allegedly in pursuit of the teen. 

“We have two very dedicated and talented investigators here who understand the cyber world,” said Potter. 

Social media sites provide many of the tips, which get filtered through task forces throughout the country, and in Virginia it’s in Bedford County, said Potter. 

The Bedford County task force, formed in 1998 by Sheriff Michael Brown, works with 149 agencies in Virginia, as well as the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Most of the cases from fiscal year 2018 involved the distribution of child pornography, followed by possession of the material, according to the Task Force’s report to Gov. Ralph Northam last year. 

In Isle of Wight, most cases have also been for possession and distribution of child pornography, although one case involved a man trying to entice a child to have sex and another involved a man creating child pornography. 

Isle of Wight has made this a priority because it is seeing an increase in these types of crimes, said Potter. 

On the other side of the crime are the children depicted in the photos and files being created and distributed. 

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children works with law enforcement all over the world to find where these files are being produced, said Shelley Allwang, program manager of the child victim identification unit. 

Every effort is made to locate and rescue the child victims, said Allwang, adding that many of the children in the files have already been rescued. 

It’s a global problem for children of all ages, she said.

The Internet is wide open for this type of activity as child pornography and enticement can occur through any platform that allows for file transfer or chatting, said Allwang. 

Allwang advises parents to talk to their children about Internet safety and to reassure them that they won’t be in trouble if something does happen. They can also use news stories on the topic as a conversation starter.

Parents need to make it clear that they want to be told when something is amiss, said Allwang. 

Social media sites are also required by law to report these types of images to law enforcement and are motivated to do so.

“They don’t want it on their platforms as much as anyone else.” 

To learn more about Internet safety and children, visit {/mprestriction}