BEAUMONT — Detective Jeffrey Curl works in the special crimes division of the Beaumont Police Department. He investigates cyber crimes, including cases related to online sexual exploitation of children.
Detective Curl said while adults do get trafficked, the cases he investigates almost exclusively involve kids. He explained its happening in Orange County on a regular basis more than anyone would like to admit. In fact, Curl said they investigate just a small number of the cases, but through their investigations it's obvious that even more cases are going on than the number of kids coming forward.
Curl explained that human trafficking in the sense of prostitution is often done through ads online. Until the website was shut down months ago, predators used "backpage." Now, they've turned to other websites.
He said there is no avoiding predators for kids with social media accounts.
"These bad guys go trolling on the internet through Instagram, through Facebook, Snapchat, and they're going to find you because that's what they're looking for," said Curl.
Curl went on to explain that it can sometimes be difficult for kids to come forward once it goes too far. He says once image or videos have been exchanged, predators use them against the victims.
"Now they're coercing them, they're threatening them, telling them they'll expose them on Facebook, Instagram or whatever," said Curl.
He said some kids are afraid to turn to a parent, friend, or trusted adult and don't know where to turn. He feels kids don't realize if they just stop, the people taking advantage of them will go away out of fear of facing serious jail time.
"The first thing that kids need to know is that they are not bad guys, they are not suspects, they are victims. We are not going to arrest them, we are going to try and protect them and help them, so don't be afraid to come forward," explained Curl.
He said it's up to parents to keep an open line of communication with their kids, so if something does happen they'll feel comfortable coming forward. Curl said the overwhelming majority of parents don't learn something serious is going on with their child until after the fact.
Curl suggests parents let their kids know they are not ignorant to what could go on, and to try to advise them before something serious happens. He said it's important for parents to realize they have a very limited amount of control over their kids cell phones.
He said the most important thing for kids to know is that they can come to them if something does happen. Curl explained there are no limits as to who predators may target. Victims can be any race, sex, or economic background.