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Arapahoe County investigators warn parents of video gaming sex predators

Online luring extends to devices like XBox & PS4
Posted at 9:07 PM, Apr 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-16 23:11:07-04

ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. — The Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office released photos of two alleged child sex predators this week. One of the men, 30-year-old Jesus Chavez, has been arrested.

The department has successfully caught dozens of predators luring children online.

On Tuesday, for example, investigators here were chatting back and forth with a 27-year-old male. That suspect thought he was talking to a 14-year-old girl.

"We're the busiest agency in the country," said Mike Garnsey, a forensic investigator with the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office.

"It’s like shooting fish in a barrel,” said investigator Jeff Himes. “There are many, many, many adults out there preying on children for sexual activity."

In the lab, forensic investigators show parents the problem. Not only are child sex predators using popular apps like Snap Chat and Instagram to befriend your kids, but they're also using popular video games like Fortnite where players can chat with strangers.

"They prey on your kids through your PS4, your Xbox,” Himes said. “They'll befriend a child online."

Investigators say the problem is kids are often way too trusting.

"They believe whatever is presented to them," Himes said.

"And this person that tells them that they're amazing and gives them positive feedback can very easily develop this relationship," Garnsey said.

Garnsey uses a recent example of two 14-year-old boys in Arapahoe County who were living with their grandmother.

"And at the time the ice bucket challenge was a big deal. So, the sexual predator tells the boys about a new thing: the booty challenge, where they take nude photos of their rear-ends and get gift cards in return," Garnsey said.

Investigators say the grandmother only started questioning things after the boys began buying nice shoes and other things and she had no idea where they were getting the money. She then reported it to Arapahoe County.

"We tracked that sexual predator down, and he was prosecuted up in Seattle," Garnsey said.

In fact, investigators say it takes just minutes.

"Can I get a picture of you? Here's a picture of me,” Himes said. “And it progresses into a sexual request very, very quickly."

So, how do you navigate all this as a parent?

Investigators admit it’s not easy.

“There’s no magic screening system,” Garnsey said. “It takes work on the part of the parent.”

Investigators offer four common sense tips: Talk to your kids. Tell your kids to question anyone who wants to follow them. As parents - go through your kids' devices on occasion. And finally, be engaged. It’s better to snoop than regret that you didn't later.

"Talk to them. Snoop,” Himes said. “Be a pain in the butt. I believe you should be a parent and not a friend. Look at their social media accounts. Parents who are doing a good job tell their children you shouldn’t do this"

Predators also often offer “cool” things to kids.

“Alcohol, drugs, cigarettes,” Himes said. “A lot of times these kids won’t know who they’re talking to until they meet them face to face. And by then, it’s usually a very bad situation.”

“Tons of parents probably see their kids playing Mind Craft and don’t think twice about it,” Garnsey said. “You never know who’s on the other end of that chat.”