Growing SC task force targets sexual predators online

A growing task force in South Carolina is targeting sexual predators who hunt children online.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — A growing task force in South Carolina is targeting sexual predators who hunt children online.  

The state's attorney general spoke exclusively to Eyewitness News reporter Greg Suskin about the effort to combat child porn and prevent sexual assaults on children.

The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force has made more than 500 arrests in 10 years, the Attorney General's Office said. Some of those people had child pornography on their computers while others targeted children online.

Criminals armed with computers pose a growing threat to families, South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson said.

The task force partners with 73 agencies statewide.

People who share child porn online mistakenly think they're not hurting anyone, Wilson said.

"Every time you share a picture of a child being raped, it's as if you are re-raping that child," Wilson said.  

The task force has made 27 arrests in York County, five in Chesterfield and one in Lancaster.

The image of a sexual predator has no stereotype, Wilson said. They are people of all races, ages and income levels; even teens sexting can get in trouble.

"You've just committed a felony," Wilson said. "You've just manufactured child porn and distributed it by texting it."

Joe Ryan, a task force member, speaks to kids in schools about sexting, and online safety.     

"A lot of them ask, 'Are you watching what we're doing? So if I sent this picture, do you guys get it?'" Ryan said.

He tells them no -- but when they send a picture, a predator can find it.

Wilson said the task force can only do so much and parents must monitor what their teens and even young children are doing on the Internet.

"This is serious stuff," Wilson said. "You can't shock these kids straight fast enough."

Cases are not slowing down, Wilson said. 

More than 125 cases are pending in court.

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