Surge in local cyber crime against kids sparks safety presentation by Yakima detective

Surge in local cyber crime against kids sparks safety presentation by Yakima detective

YAKIMA, Wash. -- One Yakima police detective is going beyond the call of duty with a recent special presentation for the public.

Officer Michael Durbin hosted a cyber safety class Thursday evening at West Valley Junior High (WVJH).

Authorities said they have seen a spike in cyber crime against kids and want to bring awareness to the community.

“Kids are really impacted by social media,” said WVJH psychologist Malissa Durbin. “They're doing a lot of stuff on social media that could get them in a lot of trouble.”

For about five years YPD’s Special Assault Unit has been visiting local schools to educate parents about a growing trend of cyber crimes against kids. Malissa Durbin said it’s necessary for families in a digital age.

“Anxiety and depression; social media; all of those things are really big issues in the school,” she said.

And with the district's roll out of Chromebooks this year increasing online access, more safety measures are needed.

Authorities said teens and preteens are being targeted through social media and various apps where they are solicited for personal information and nude photos.

“Our caseload is exploding,” said YPD officer Michael Durbin. “Parents are surprised there are these apps that even though they don't have phone service it can turn their iPods or tablets into phones that can allow them to text.”

Apps designed to connects kids with strangers, including Whisper, Omegle, KIK, and others.

Officer Durbin said to look out for any app that is anonymous and doesn't require formal subscription. Also avoid anything with GPS tracking capabilities and requests to send sensitive pictures.

YPD’s five assault unit investigators now average 30 cases per month as cyber threats and extortion surge.

“This can be a game-changer for kids whose images are out there and it can wreck their lives,” said officer Durbin. “It's called the ‘World Wide Web’ for a reason; it's circulated like wildfire and once you send it you can't get it back.”

Authorities and school officials are encouraging parents to be proactive with checking phones and other devices.

“I think our students here and everywhere don't have enough knowledge to use technology safely,” said Malissa Durbin.

Trying to minimize online risk for kids in a predator's playground.

The latest presentation is part of a series of classes the West Valley School District offers to the community.

Authorities said possessing or sending child pornography is a felony that also requires registration as a sex offender. If you have questions about the safety of any app you can click here.

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