South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson sat down with WPDE NewsChannel 15 on Wednesday to talk about the alarming number of internet sexual predator cases in our area and across the state.
Wilson said sexual predators are hiding their true identities while using the internet to seek their child victims.
"The predators on the internet are becoming more and more sophisticated because to use the internet is a sophisticated tool in and of itself. Predators are out there patrolling the internet like it's the new wild, wild west. Like it's the new frontier. And it is. They can stay anonymous and present themselves in a different way in person than they otherwise would with a young person," said Wilson.
As a father of two small children, Wilson said arresting and prosecuting internet sexual predators is one of his primary goals as Attorney General.
"As a parent I am very hot on this topic. But also as a prosecutor, I had prosecuted child sex crimes before I was Attorney General. I've seen first-hand what happens to kids when they are victimized. I've seen what happens to families. It destroys families. And I don't ever want to see that happen to another family," he said.
The SC Attorney General's Office chairs the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC).
Since the ICAC was created in 2005, it's made 441 arrests, which led to 303 convictions. About 55 law enforcement agencies across the state are a part of the task force.
Wilson said the task force is working hard to catch sexual predators, but he's concerned about the ones who don't get caught.
"What makes it hard for law enforcement and the good guys patrolling is that we're always reacting to what the bad guys are doing. The bad guys go to a certain area on the internet. And they're there just long enough to realize, by the time the good guys get there, the bad guys figure it out and they move, and they change the way they operate. So, we have to adapt to that. So, we're always playing catch up to the bad guy. What scares me is the number of people that we don't intercept. So, the question is how many children are we not saving from this predatory behavior?" Wilson said.
He added that parents can help protect their children from sexual predators surfing the internet.
"Monitor your children's internet usage. Keep the computer, I know everyone's on WiFi now, laptops float around the house. Have the computer in an open common area where you can see what's going on. Allowing your 10 or 12 year old to close the door in their bedroom for hours and hours on end on the internet is not a good practice," he said.
Wilson's office also has a team of people willing to travel the state to talk with parents and students about internet safety and the dangers of sexual predators.
"They say an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure. I've got folks in my office standing right here, who are going out to schools, civic groups, rotaries, high schools, middle schools elementary school and presenting," he said.
For more information on internet safety visit the ICAC Task Force website.