Indiana first in nation to launch education program for cybercrimes

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indiana State Police Department is starting a statewide effort to educate young people about cyber victimization.

State police announced the Indiana Internet Crimes Against Children program on Monday morning. Indiana already has a unit to investigate Internet crimes against children. Those officers deal with everything from child pornography to cyber sex crimes. The group was also responsible for any type of presentation to the public. Now, three specifically-trained civilians will run the free program for the state’s 92 counties. There are more than 60 task forces around the country, but Indiana is the first state to roll out a program solely focused on the education component.

“It frees up our investigators to do what they do best and provides an education component that really didn’t exist to this level prior to this,” Sergeant Ron Galaviz, spokesperson for the Indiana State Police, said.

The program will focus specifically on those between the ages of eight and 18 as well as their parents. State police said the programs are necessary because of instances of sexual predators targeting young people online. Programming also will focus on cyberbullying and radicalization by terrorists and criminal extremists.

“These things are happening, and we need to be aware. We need to do our due diligence to do a little investigating ourselves so that we know exactly what’s happening in our children’s lives,” Galaviz said. “Really, as a parent, it’s our responsibility to know what our kids are doing online. Anything else would be sometimes irresponsible.”

The presentations will teach them both what’s safe to put online and also what should be avoided.

“Look out for things and see some of the warning signs that are out there so that maybe they can be intervened before it gets to a certain point where it’s past the point of no return,” Galaviz said. “If they see something online, it’s very easy to kind of hide behind that cloak of almost invisibility when you’re online but if your child or even you as a parent sees something, we want you to report it.”

Programming also will focus on cyberbullying and radicalization by terrorists and criminal extremists.

“At this day in age, we’re starting to see where we have some youth that really haven’t found themselves yet, and they’re vulnerable. Those are some of the youngsters that these terrorist organizations are going out and they’re seeking out and they’re recruiting, trying to provide them that stability in their life that they’re looking for. So, these programs will also touch on some of those factors,” Galaviz said.

Officials said they anticipate the program will have more requests than the educators can handle. But they said an aggressive plan is being developed that would provide at least 300 training programs to young people by the end of the year.

“We see it every day. You’re reporting it every day. So, it’s prudent for us as a law enforcement agency whose mission is to protect the lives and the welfare of our citizens to take the step forward and take this proactive approach and do our very best to educate the community,” Galaviz said. “There hopefully someday won’t be a need for an Indiana Crimes Against Children Task Force, but for the time being, they’re busy people and we’re going to continue to utilize their skills to help protect our youth here in Indiana.”

A grant from the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute is funding the project. Any person or group interested in setting up a presentation can contact the team at ICACYouthEd@isp.in.gov.

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