Police, lawmakers discuss ways to protect children from online predators

Police and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal talk about fighting cyber crimes and online predators.(WFSB)

Police and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal laid out steps on how you can stay vigilant while keeping your family safe.

Selma, which is a 7-year-old Connecticut State Police K9, is trained to sniff out electronic devices from cell phones to thumb drives. The K9 alerts her handler to any potential evidence.

When it comes to cybercrimes and online predators, there is a growing problem that knows no boundaries.

"The only thing decreasing about this problem of child predators and exploitation is the age of the children involved.,” Blumenthal said.

It’s a concern that's always on the mind of Meriden resident April Willard, who is a mother of two.

"You can't trust anybody, you never know, who's lurking behind the corner and who's watching,” Willard said.

It’s why she says she tries to keep her 6-year-old off the Internet.

"He does not have a tablet,” Willard said. “He does not have online access."

On Friday, in Meriden at the State Police Forensics Lab, members of the State's Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and Blumenthal were highlighting the task force's work and the recent reauthorization of federal funding. They said $300,000 in Connecticut's case is used for training and education to help state and local police continue to collaborate.

"We're seeing a lot of undercover, if you will, clandestine programs, apps where they can be loaded onto the device,” CT State Police Sgt Richard Alexandre said. “These apps work behind the scenes, they can be hidden, conversations can take place."

Police said when this first became a problem, their biggest concerns were desktops and laptop computers. But, police said now those cyber threats have shifted to tablets and smartphones. Devices plenty of kids are constantly on. That means not only do police need to be proactive but so do parents.

"Those devices are giving your child access to the world, whether it be through apps, or chatting or texting, they're able to communicate with people and if you're not aware what they're doing, when they're doing it, how they're doing it, and having access to those devices and regularly screening them,” Alexandre said. “Your child may find themselves in a situation or position where they're safety is compromised and you have no idea that any of this is taking place."

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