Tulsa Police Warn Parents Of Dangerous Apps
TULSA, Oklahoma - One of the fastest growing crimes is happening online: sexual predators hunting for children through apps.
It's happening more and more across Green Country.
Tulsa detectives said they're working lots of cases involving predators targeting young children using 3 apps in particular. Apps that could be on your child's phone right now.
Blake Lewis. A trusted soccer coach convicted of sending inappropriate Facebook messages to a 14-year-old girl in Jenks.
Michael Bell. Jenks police said he used Snapchat to have a sexual conversation with who he thought was a 14-year-old girl.
Hunter Day. Police said the Yukon chemistry teacher had sex with a 16-year-old student after conversations that started on Snapchat.
These are all accused child predators, the people that Tulsa's Cyber Crime Unit are working tirelessly to put behind bars.
"We have arrested people who have traveled to Tulsa for the purpose of having sex with an underage child," said Detective Joshua Showman.
Showman said the problem continues to get worse and predators are using social media apps to find children.
"They keep going until it works and once they find a method that works for them they repeat it over and over," he said.
"The most popular apps with teens right now is Snapchat and Kik- Snapchat is really problematic for us," Showman said.
Snapchat allows users to send pictures and videos that disappear after a few seconds. When a user sends a message, they can choose how long it stays visible, and that's a big concern for police.
"Tends to draw out child predators because they feel more secure using that app vs. other apps that might store communication," Showman said.
And then there's Kik, another free messaging app. You can send pictures, texts, and create a fun user-name.
"Kik doesn't make any attempt to verify that the person who made the account is a real person," said Showman.
It's chilling, the problem investigators have when trying to catch an adult predator.
"Kik does not retain their records and they're in Canada so if law enforcement needs records from them it's difficult to do. You have to use an international treaty," Showman said.
Facebook messenger is also a problem. Most of us are familiar with it, although it's less popular because it's easier to link back to the user.
Facebook is taking steps to protect your children.
"Facebook has released a new app that's geared towards children that requires parents to sign you up and the parents to determine which people you can communicate with," said Showman.
"None of our kids will have a cell phone before they're 14-years-old. It's not a toy, it's very dangerous,” said one parent.
More parents are taking notice of the dangers after hearing our recent news reports on child sex crimes.
"When she gets a cell phone I will be on top of it at all times, monitoring it to see … who she's talking to, texting, all of that, because that's very important, especially nowadays,” said parent Toyia Nicole.
"They think they're being safe and cautious, and 'oh, it's another teen on there,' but there are so many predators out there that harp on naive, innocent little children," said parent Jennifer Rocho.
And to the child predator who is seeing this special report, investigators have a clear warning they want you to hear.
"We're trying to find you and when we do find you, which is all the time, you're going to face some very serious prison time,” said Detective Showman.
Experts say the best thing you can do is check your child's phone on a regular basis.
There are also apps that can help.
Bark and Pocket Guardian alert parents when sexting, bullying, or explicit images are detected.
The apps Life 360 and Mama Bear can help you track your child's location as well.