Brown County Sheriff's Office: Child predator cases up 40 percent in 2018
Law enforcement agencies across Brown County are seeing a sudden spike in cyber crimes this year, specifically involving child predators.
Among them is their investigation of Jason Pristelski, a 41-year-old New Franken man who is charged with multiple felonies, including child enticement and possession of child pornography.
Authorities say they found roughly 125 images of child pornography on his phone after arresting him when they say he showed up to meet a 15-year old girl for sex.
They're still looking for child and adult victims connected to the case.
But his arrest marks the latest in what authorities are calling a big increase in crimes targeting children.
Investigators in the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) division at the Brown County Sheriff's Office say cases are up about 40 percent so far this year.
"I think people are coming forward and being more cooperative. More and more people are on the internet every single day," says Lt. Jim Valley, who leads the ICAC division at the Brown County Sheriff's Office.
From assaults to enticement to child pornography, sex crimes targeting children can be the most disturbing, graphic and challenging investigations law enforcement officials have to deal with, but identifying and stopping it is a top priority.
In 2014, the Brown County Sheriff's Office created an ICAC division, assigning investigators to specifically work child predator cases.
Action 2 News has been with them on undercover operations.
Despite the increased attention, even showing exactly how investigators track down the predators, the criminal activity isn't stopping.
"It just seems like more and more mobile devices, more and more applications are out there for this stuff to continue," says Valley.
So far this year, investigators in Brown County have worked 28 ICAC cases. Last year at this time, they reached 19 cases.
While the difference may seem small, Lt. Valley said even one is significant because each case can take weeks.
The number of cases involving child predators had been going down the last two years, but he said the turnaround could come from more availability of apps and websites where people prey on children or because more of those businesses are flagging illegal activity and alerting authorities sooner.
It could also come from more manpower.
Police detectives from Green Bay, De Pere and Ashwaubenon, along with the Brown County Sheriff's Office, all work ICAC cases together now, forming a regional task force.
It allows them to pool resources and expertise to move on tips faster and investigate even more cases.
"It doesn't matter what jurisdiction we're working in. We're all able to assist each other and move on to that next case, so we can help the kids," he says.
Valley also credits new state laws targeting the solicitation of images from children.
"We know that sometimes they hold children hostage just on the internet themselves or make people pay or... I'm going to make people pay if you don't send this image," explains Valley. "And we do not want them to ask that question at all."