Grant would equip TPD to fight Internet crimes against children
City Council approved a grant application this month that will give Thomasville police officers additional resources to fight Internet crimes against children.
If approved, the Thomasville Police Department will receive $12,427 from the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant, a source of federal funding made available through the U.S. Department of Justice to help support local law and state enforcement agencies.
Lt. Raymond Widener at the Aug. 19 meeting asked council to consider the grant application to enhance the department's work with Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC), a task force created to investigate the exploitation of children through the use of computer technology.
"The technology we're asking for is very much needed," Widener told council. "ICAC is going up, especially with the use of the Internet."
Chief Jeff Insley said more people across the country are turning to social media every year. When a young, impressionable person encounters someone who seemingly is a friend, there is a chance something could go seriously awry.
"When you're on the phone, you know who you're talking to, but when you're on the computer you don't have clue," said Insley. "For a child looking for a friend or that is needing attention, if they find it can take them down the wrong path. If we can do anything to prevent that from happening, preventing a child from getting involved in that, we want to do our best to do just that."
Widener gave council a recent example of a 14-year-old girl who went missing after meeting someone online.
"Somebody solicited her so you can see how important these things are," Widener said. "It started with an Internet crime.'
Insley said JAG grant funds allow the department to enhance its delivery service without affecting its taxpayer-based budget. TPD currently has two police officers specifically trained to handle Internet crimes. Funds from the grant will be used to purchase computers and software these officers will use to fight Internet crimes against children.
"We're appreciative of the money," said Insley. "We need to make sure they have the tools they need to make a difference."
JAG funds also will be used to purchase surveillance equipment for undercover investigations and a pair of new gas masks for the Special Response Team unit. The new masks have communication capability that will allow supervisors to talk to the command truck without removing them.
"We try to use it smartly and do some good things with it," Insley said. "Us getting computers and software for our task force officers to do our ICAC to me is priceless. Getting cameras and surveillance stuff for undercover drug investigations, again priceless."
JAG funds are awarded based on a police department's crime numbers.
Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or firstname.lastname@example.org.