Behind the Screen: A look at what motivates JPD's ICAC Unit
“It’s happening right now, right this second. Tomorrow at this time it will be happening. Two weeks from now it will be happening. From this day on, it’s something that’s started and it’s not going to stop”.
As technology advances, so does the work Detective Ernest Ward has to do.
Ward spends his days seeking out online predators targeting children.
He decided he wanted to get involved after years of being a school resource officer.
“I started really caring about the kids and now I have grandchildren. I have children myself. I don’t want to see my grandchild being a victim, I don’t want to see any child being a victim”, said Ward.
Ward is one of three members on Jonesboro’s Internet Crimes Against Children task force.
The unit covers cases all over Northeast Arkansas.
Sergeant Gary Shackelford says the unit has to go through content daily that should not exist, “Everybody back in this division sees and hears things that god didn’t design us to listen to and see. We are not suppose to see and hear these things, they’re horrific”.
Getting that content offline and those responsible for it is the motivation that gets them through the day.
“I think it really increases the burden on us to follow through and do good case work. So, we can protect these kids”, says Sergeant Brandon King.
“When you can pull somebody off the street that is abusing a child, sexually abusing a child, that has a drive to it”, said Shackelford.
There are hundreds of social media apps out there.
Each one creating a potential danger.
I.C.A.C. members say parents need to know how to use their kids phone and apps better than their kids do.
“You would never hand your child a bottle of whiskey and the car keys and say okay well go have fun but be careful; a parent would never do that. But they’ll hand them that smart phone. And say well you know what you should and shouldn’t be doing on that phone”, said Shackelford.
The unit does their best to be proactive on cases, but also relies on help from the public.
And they want victims to know their office is a safe place for them.
“Whether it be online or in person, whatever the case may be. It’s embarrassing and there’s a huge stigma surrounding that. We understand and we are very good at protecting the identities of the victims. We do not want to further traumatize this person. Our job is to make things better for them”, said King.