The Associated Press
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (AP) -- The city's police department has joined
two others in West Virginia to crack down on people using the
Internet to prey on children.
Police departments in Beckley, Huntington and Hurricane are
participating in Operation Blue Ridge Thunder, a Virginia-based task
force consisting of more than 130 police agencies across the country
training to fight Internet crimes.
Blue Ridge Thunder is coordinated by the Bedford County Sheriff's
Department in Virginia and distributes more than $1.6 million to its
partners for educational purposes and equipment purchased. The money
is granted by the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency
Huntington Police Detective Kendra Beckett says authorities are
investigating cases involving child pornography possession, but the
department has not yet been involved in tracking child predators.
"It is happening here," she said. "We might not see it, but it is
Delegate Greg Howard, R-Cabell, plans to introduce a law to toughen
the state's stance.
Howard's legislation would make it a crime in West Virginia to
arrange a meeting with a child with the intent to have sex. It also
would prohibit using the Internet to promote the use of a minor in
sexual activity and would criminalize the intent to commit the crime.
Presently, those cases are handled in federal court.
"It is important for law enforcement to recognize the changing nature
for criminal activity in today's world," Howard said. "There are sick
and deviant people who use the Internet to solicit children to meet
them in our community to engage in sexual acts and other criminal
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One in five children between the ages of 10 and 17 are solicited
sexually on the Internet, according to the National Center for
Missing and Exploited Children.