'Sexting' Could Land Verdigris Teens On Sex Offender List

Tuesday, April 12th 2011, 6:20 pm
By: News On 6

Lori Fullbright, News On 6

VERDIGRIS, Oklahoma -- A Green Country town is cracking down on teen sexting.

Police in Verdigris are hauling teenagers into the police station to warn them that sending partially nude and totally nude photos of themselves to others is illegal and they can be arrested for it.

The pictures of kids under 18 are considered child pornography under the law and just having them on their phone could be a felony. If they're convicted, they could have to register as a sex offender.

Police in Verdigris don't want to see it go that far, but they do want parents and kids to understand the very real consequences of this exploding problem.

Police say it's a huge problem: kids taking pictures of themselves or each other, undressed and sending them to a boyfriend or girlfriend.

That alone is considered child porn. The problem is when a break-up happens and these pictures get spread to 300 or 400 people at a time and downloaded onto the internet, sometimes for revenge.

Then they spread to other countries and before you know it, that intimate picture meant for one is seen by millions and there's no way to get it back, no way to stop it, it's out there and accessible forever.

"When I investigate a shooting, once you send that bullet down range, I can't stop it. When a photograph of you hits online, on the internet, I can't stop it," Chief Detective Darrin Hester, with the Verdigris Police Department, said.

Detective Hester says he's decided to take a hard line stance on these investigations, pulling the kids, their parents and their phone into the police station, to warn them what they're child is doing is potentially a felony and can mean jail time or sex offender registration.

Plus, it opens them up to all kinds of predators.

"They take the photo in their bedroom or their bathroom and someone a little computer savvy can GPS it and get directions to their home," he said.

Plus, he worries about the social consequences of these photos coming back to haunt these kids in years to come. He says we all did stupid things as teenagers, but they weren't recorded.

"These younger kids, just don't understand how and when it can come back to affect their lives," he said. "They want to run for office or have a child, the thing pops up."

Detective Hester says what really worries him is the age these kids are starting sending these graphic photos, as young as 12 and 13 years old.

He has sent some cases through to the juvenile DA's office for possible charges. He hopes this crackdown will make kids realize the only way not to suffer from these pictures or get into trouble because of them, is to never take them in the first place.