GROVETOWN, Ga. (WJBF) – A recent arrest made by the Grovetown Police Department points to the importance of agencies working together to reduce internet sex crimes involving children.
The internet and social media are everyday tools for many – including sexual predators.
Georgia’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, hosted by the GBI, is made up of nearly 300 agencies who share the same goal of getting these predators off the streets.
In 2022, the task force received over 21,000 cyber tips of these cases. In that same year, they were able to arrest nearly 400 perpetrators.
“When I started as a manager in this office back in 2012, we almost had three thousand cyber tips that year, so you can see in a matter of ten years we’ve just increased the number of these tips dramatically,” said Special Agent in Charge Brian Johnston with the Georgia ICAC Task Force.
Johnston said this increase could be due to internet providers taking child exploitation seriously and reporting more cases.
But, it could also be due to more predators being on these sites.
“That’s why it’s so important that we have this robust, statewide task force here in Georgia that pays attention to these crimes and goes after these predators,” Johnston said.
Recently in Grovetown, 47-year-old Rodger Bonnette was arrested for Enticing a Child for Indecent Purposes.
“We utilized some investigative techniques,” Grovetown Police Chief Jamey Kitchens said. “Mr. Bonnette thought he was conversing with a juvenile, and even though being told that he was conversing with a juvenile, he continued to pursue to the point of driving up here thinking that he was coming to meet the juvenile for sex.”
The Grovetown Police Department is an affiliate agency of the ICAC Task Force, which provides training, tools, certifications and cases for agencies to investigate.
“There’s other stuff that covers basically undercover chat investigations and stuff like that. The only way to conduct those, to be sanctioned by the GBI, is to have completed that training,” said Inv. Sgt. William Loomer with the GPD.
Right now, there are almost 300 affiliate agencies in the state within the task force. Leaders are urging others to join free of cost.
And to prevent crimes like this from happening to your child, they have some advice.
“Be monitoring what your children are doing on social media, be very aware of what they have access to, who is talking to them, and it’s across all platforms,” Inv. Sgt. Loomer said.
In the end, it all comes down to protecting those who are most vulnerable.
“This is a huge problem in the United States, and so we ride a lot of satisfaction out of making these cases,” Chief Kitchens said. “It makes our community safer because for every one that we’re getting, there’s probably ten that we aren’t getting. So that just pushes us to try that much harder.”
If you see something like this happening, you should report it to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the GBI’s website, or your local law enforcement agency.