ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- A St. Louis man was among 190 arrested in a nationwide sweep of child predators. Agents rescued 18 children who were being sexually abused to create child porn, many lured by someone they met online.
It's scary to think, but these arrests are just the tip of the iceberg, according to police. Right now thousands of predators are online, looking to "friend" your kids.
The federal agents who caught these alleged perverts say kids have more time on the Internet now that summer vacation is here, which makes this weekend the perfect time to talk to them about who's lurking on the Internet.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) along with Homeland Security investigators spent last month rounding up child pornographers across the country. They picked up 190 people, including Leland Paster in St. Louis. According to federal documents I obtained from Anchorage, Leland advertised that he had child porn, then sent it off via email to a buyer in Alaska.
"Every picture you see, there was a victim there to begin with," Ken Nix, director of the Regional Computer Crimes Education and Enforcement Group, said.
Nix has spent years behind a keyboard, forcing computers to give up secret images and videos their owners tried to hide or delete. He says the Internet and smart phones have made it easier for predators to find new prey.
"You can browse the Internet, you can tweet, you can text, send pictures, send movies, and we're finding that they're doing that a lot," Nix said.
ICE investigators say most suspects arrested in the roundup met their victims online, many on social networking sites, which sometimes led to more personal communication like texting and sexting.
"What parents and children need to understand is that the individuals who are predators, this is what they do for a living," Nix said. "They're out there; we just need to teach our children to look for it."
Nix says it starts by simply talking to your kids. Here is a great list of resources with some conversation starters and links to report Internet bad guys:
Missouri Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force:
I Know Better:
National Center for Missing and Exploited Children:
If someone tries to inappropriately contact your child online, you can fill out a report that will get sent to the proper law enforcement agency by clicking on the above link then clicking on "CyberTipline" in the left column of your screen.