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What KCSO deputies are doing to keep kids safe from online predators, and what parents can do to help

student with cellphone
Posted at 6:21 PM, Oct 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-10-14 21:21:52-04

BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KERO) — ABC23 continues to follow up on the decoy operation that resulted in the arrests of over a half dozen people, including the former head athletic trainer for the Bakersfield Condors.

Chad Drown was arrested earlier this month along with a number of other adults, who now face felony and misdemeanor charges for illegal contact and intentions involving minors.

23ABC spoke with the Kern County Sheriff’s Office about these types of investigations, and why parents need to stay vigilant in making sure they know who their kids and teens are talking to online.

Lori Meza with KCSO says detectives posing as minors interact with residents on a number of online platforms. Investigators look for certain characteristics during conversations which help them identify potential predators.

Meza says messaging and gaming apps are where a number of dangerous individuals look for victims along with dating sites.

She tells 23ABC it's crucial that parents talk to their kids and teens about the seriousness of online predators and how quickly a conversation can become dangerous.

“This is it's a tough one to bring up because it's fresh for all of us, but Patricia Alatorre,” Meza said. “Her parents did not think that this would happen. The situation, the way that it unfolded is it was textbook. And it's heartbreaking to think that there's education out there, and there's education that's been given. And a lot of times that perceived risk of danger on a cell phone, it's just so low, and it takes something horrific to happen. And that's not that's not our goal, our goal is to educate the public is to have these conversations.”

KCSO hosts presentations at local schools and organizations about the dangers of online predators, the types of traps they set, and how to protect children and teens.

One thing parents can do right now is talk with their kids about posting and tagging photos and videos online, or sending them through apps or texts. Predators can use those types of media to get even more information about their victims.

“And that's really important, because what if you took it in your bathroom, and now that predator knows that at this time of day this, this child will be home. And if they've had any sort of conversation, know that they're home alone,” said Meza. “So making sure that your location services on your phone are always off. Speak to your children about sharing photos about sharing too much information.”