Posted: 5:48 p.m. Monday, Jan. 27, 2014

Local, federal agencies nab 3 men on child porn charges

By Sarah Rosario

CHARLOTTE, N.C. —

Police said Tuesday three men facing exploitation charges could face federal charges.

The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said federal and state agents helped in the arrest of Paul Baalerud, Paul Knapen and Jared Smith.
 
Officers said the cases aren't connected but found child pornography on each of their computers.
 
Police told Eyewitness News Smith was arrested through a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and Baalerud and Knapen were arrested through a CMPD online investigation.
 
Officers said the cases are connected to a bigger online operation involving websites overseas.
 
Now they're hoping the latest arrests will help them stop other crimes like it in Charlotte.
 
"The problem is when there's a market for it they're going to keep doing it and that means children are going to continue to be abused and exploited in that way," said CMPD Capt. Rod Farley.
 
Police said Baalerud, Knapen and Smith exploited children online for months.
 
Smith was already a registered sex offender. He was found through a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
 
"Whenever they get tips here in Charlotte they send them straight to us, it's one of our resources, and we go out (to) investigate," said Farley
 
Michelle Collins, vice president for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, told Eyewitness News they work with law enforcement agencies across the country and overseas.
 
"We're receiving approximately 10,000 to 15,000 cases per week from members of the public and from online companies," said Collins.
 
CMPD partnered with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, State Bureau of Investigation and Homeland Security to make the arrests.
 
Now they're working together to make sure the crimes don't lead to others.
 
"It branches off a little bit into human trafficking sometimes when has to do with children. These are crimes with long tentacles," said Farley.
 
Police said all three men were caught with several images and videos of children during a search of their homes.
 
Officers seized all electronic devices that could store pictures, including phones, cameras and computers.
 
Officers said the victims are all preteens younger than 12 years old and they don't believe the suspects knew the minors.
 
People who know about any online crimes against children are asked to report it on this website. Click here. http://www.missingkids.com/cybertipline/
 
You can report the crime anonymously.

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