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Pa. grant adds muscle to fight predators

Butler, White Haven, Freeland cops to use $15,000 to educate, fight Internet crime

Butler Township Police Chief Charles Altmiller, Sgt. Robert Maholik, state Rep. Todd Eachus, D-Butler Twp., Cpl. William J. Feissner, and township officials Judy Pekarek and Robert Shelhamer address the media in the Butler Twp. meeting room on Tuesday.

Aimee Dilger/the times leader

BUTLER TWP. – Three police departments are reaching out into the community to teach parents about the dangers of Internet predators.

State Rep. Todd Eachus, D-Butler Twp, has secured a $15,000 grant from the state Department of Community and Economic Development to help offset the cost of investigations and community awareness about chat room predators.

Eachus and Butler Township police Cpl. William Feissner said they plan to share their success with other police departments.

The grant will be used to educate parents and children, to investigate and prosecute Internet predators, to develop a model for other law enforcement agencies and interagency cooperation with the Federal Bureau of Investigations, the state Office of Attorney General and the Luzerne County District Attorneys Office, Eachus said.

“Computer crimes are complex to investigate,” Feissner said. “Local law enforcement shy away from such cases because it takes months to build a case, many cases are shoved under the carpet because many departments don’t have the resources or manpower.”

Township police will team up with police in White Haven and Freeland to investigate Internet predators. Officers will also educate students in schools and attend community meetings with parents about the dangers of Internet chat rooms.

Township police and White Haven police have conducted Internet sex stings in the last two years arresting men who used chat rooms to sexually proposition what they believed were children. The children were actually police decoys.

“We’ve conducted four stings,” Feissner said. “It’s very intensive with manpower and resources. We’re hoping to create a model to share with other agencies.”

“Part of the problem is sharing the resources to do it,” Eachus said. “It’s a challenge to dedicate the time at the local level.

“As a parent, I want these people prosecuted,” Eachus added.

Eachus said many children and young adults use myspace.com or facebook.com to post their biography and personal pictures, predators rely on that information to find victims.

“It’s a new world out there with various Web sites, which create a risk to children,” Eachus said. “When you post something on a Web site, it’s there forever even if you delete it. There’s always a way to access it.”

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