Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department officials said they are taking a new approach to finding child pornography offenders online.
Until recently, CMPD depended on tips from federal agencies, other local police departments and the public before beginning an investigation of people looking at child porn online.
Capt. Rod Farley said since his detectives began taking what he calls a "proactive approach," they have already found offenders they didn't even know were out there.
Police wouldn't get into specifics about where online they look, or the technology they use, but now instead of just investigating a specific tip on a person, police say they are looking at activity online that sends up red flags and flushes out people they previously didn't know existed.
"Unfortunately, a lot of the folks we've been running into lately haven't been on the radar," Farley said.
One of a handful of people they have already found and charged is Leon Jameson. He faces charges of third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor.
Before this month, police didn't know who he was.
"According to the files and everything, this had been going on for years," Farley said.
Farley said his goal is to catch these criminals while they are still searching online sites, because they don't know if or when they may try to find a child outside of their house.
"When this isn't enough, when the computer screen isn't showing you enough, when's that time you're going to take that next step and actually reach out for a real child?" said Farley.
He said in the last month they have charged four people with crimes related to child pornography who were previously unknown to the department.
"The good thing is that we're finally finding these folks, able to get them on the radar so when that child does go missing in Mecklenburg County, we have some places we can go start looking," Farley said.