Operation Black Veil Investigators' Tips to Protect Your Child - WBAY

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Operation Black Veil Investigators Offer Advice to Protect Your Children


Do you know who your kids are talking to online or the web sites they're visiting?

We continue our exclusive reports on Operation Black Veil -- the largest Internet predator sting in Wisconsin history.

Authorities arrested 16 people statewide last week. Eight men were from Brown, Outagamie, and Shawano counties, and all have now been charged. Investigators say they thought they were meeting children for sex.

Over the last few days we've heard from hundreds of you, including many parents, who have found the details of this operation and what's happening in our community eye-opening and shocking.

This may be the most important story in our series: What you as parents can do to protect your kids.

For three days, investigators took us undercover with them when they posted ads to Craigslist, looking for people willing to pay for sex with children.

Replies came in faster than they could keep up.

"We got four at once," Investigator Jim Valley of the Door County Sheriff's Department said.

"I literally responded to his post 20 minutes ago and we're already… there's no casual conversation here," Sgt. Carl Waterstreet of the Sturgeon Bay Police Department said.

Their ads were flagged and removed in minutes, but it didn't matter. They still saw hundreds of local ads other people have posted, looking for sex. And they saw the same quick replies.

We were there as investigators made arrests of people they say thought they were meeting kids as young as ten for sex.

They tried to meet in crowded public areas both night and day, all over Wisconsin, 16 times in three days.

It not only shocked us but also investigators.

"Our predators can be anybody, and we don't know who's lurking on our children," Valley said.

Investigators brought us along to send a message to parents.

"You really need to be careful of what your kids see online, because the access to this stuff is amazingly simple," Waterstreet said.

So what can you do to protect your kids?

Plain and simple, become an investigator yourself.

"There's programs out there, keystroke programs, that will capture where your child is on the Internet chats. People that think that's spying on their kids, I think we owe it to our kids to spy on them or to look at this stuff," Sergeant Chris Amraen, Brown County Sheriff's Department, said.

"You need to spy on them. And you know what, they don't like it, but there are a lot of things in life that they don't like," Mary Sue Lavin, school-based operations director for the Green Bay Boys & Girls Club, said.

Through her work at the Boys & Girls Club -- and as a mom -- Lavin stresses the importance of making sure kids are careful with passwords.

For young kids, she suggests Internet filters.

"Then as they get to be 10-, 11-, 12-year-olds, they've seen it all on TV, they see it in the movies, they see it on the news. They need to understand that it's very real," Lavin said.

As more people, especially kids, use smartphones and other mobile devices, Lavin urges a simple conversation with kids of all ages.

"Talk with them about things that could possibly happen. I think honesty is the best policy," she said.

During Operation Black Veil, investigators only used Craigslist but caution there are dangers just about everywhere online.

They worry that sometimes kids think it's a joke to engage in chats, but based on this operation they say it is not funny at all.

Door County Sheriff Terry Vogel said, "These predators are out there. Parents need to be aware of that. Do whatever they can to monitor their children. There's some very dangerous people out there."



Resources for Parents

A parent's guide to Internet safety from the FBI.

For children ages 8 to 17, this website helps parents and kids address issues such as cyberbullying and sharing too much information, cell phones and social networking sites.
NetSmartz Teens: http://www.nsteens.org/

For younger children, ages 5 to 10, this website introduces them to basic Internet safety concepts through interactions with 3-D animated characters. 
NetSmartz Kids: http://www.netsmartzkids.org

From the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, this website has a lot of tips and links to resources for parents with children of all ages.

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