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Posted: 5:45 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 6, 2014

Smartphone apps used by sex offenders

By John Bedell

DAYTON —

Toyia Bryant says, like most teens today, her 13-year-old daughter is on social media. 

"She's into Instagram. It's probably the only social media I'll permit her to have right now," Bryant said.

The mother of four from West Carrollton says she carefully monitors her daughter's account. "We were talking a little bit earlier about how people, like predators and people of that nature, have access to being able to get in touch with them."

Police say sexual predators are now turning to mobile apps to find victims.

"They're looking for someone that's gonna get on there and talk to them. Give them personal information and their gonna use that as avenue to meet these young people," Centerville Police officer John Davis, said. 

There have been cases here in the Miami Valley. In October, Centerville police arrested 29-year-old Joshua Fisher after officers said he had sex with a 14-year-old girl. 

"They were using social media as a way to communicate and they were using it in a way to set up their meetings and what not," Davis said. Fisher is scheduled to be sentenced next week after he plead guilty to three counts of unlawful sexual conduct with a minor last month.

"Online social networking tends to break down that ability for that trusted adult to monitor their child's activities," said Lt. Chuck Cohen, the commander of the Indiana State Police Cyber Crimes Unit. 

In the last year, Lt. Cohen and his team of ISP detectives have investigated two child porn cases in Richmond linked to the internet. 31-year-old Derek Walton, of Liberty, Ind. and 47-year-old Larry Bright, of Richmond, Ind. are now facing federal charges after investigators say they possessed and distributed child porn.

"It's absolutely, in many ways, is an arms race where we're trying to find the latest community where predators have found that they can easily get access to children," Lt. Cohen said.

One app we found is called "Whisper." Users communicate anonymously with text and pictures. There is an age restriction you have to agree to before downloading the app, but there nothing to stop anyone from posting a message.

We downloaded the app ourselves and found one post talking about sex with children. Another was soliciting sex with underage girls. Our sister station in Seattle, KIRO-TV, is following an criminal investigation where police say a 21-year-old man from the Seattle-are admitted to using Whisper to chat with a 12-year-old girl before raping here at a motel.

Local police say the best ways to protect your children are to: monitor their activity online, know their passwords and interactions and have conversations with them about safety.

"So many people say 'Well we want to give our kids their freedom and everything'. That's all well and good," Said Officer Davis, "But you still have to be a parent. You can't always be a friend."

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