Cameron County and Brownsville Police is joining Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to launch the first Rio Grande Valley Child Exploitation Investigations Task Force.
Brownsville Independent School District police officers currently undergo training provided by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. This is in addition to in-house training to properly handle child exploitation cases.
“This task force allows us to expand that training for more specialized training for our ISD officers, and taking that training to our community, school community,” Oscar Garcia, Brownsville ISD Police Chief said.
Garcia says the district is very proactive in efforts to avoid any child endangerment, and their programs encourage students to report any abuse they encounter. He stated that fortunately child abuse is not a huge problem for Brownsville ISD,
Brownsville Independent School District says their participation in the task force is preventative. However, the child exploitation numbers are on the rise for the Rio Grande Valley.
Cameron County District Attorney Luis Saenz said, “It used to be that we would get a case on child pornography with four or five images. Now the numbers are up to the thousands, where we get a case that involves the perpetrator having two or three hundred… even thousands of images. So, the number is increasing as far as pornography images and the number of cases is increasing.”
Saenz also says parents need to stay vigilant of the interactions their children have on social media, as this is the best way to help stop online predators from putting their hands on children.
“It’s just about the parent, you know, sitting down with the child and going over that phone. Literally take the phone from the child and see who he or she is talking to. See who they’re texting, see what kinds of apps they’re downloading, see what videos they’re looking at,” Saenz said.
HSI has launched project iGuardian to help children and parents stay safe from online sexual predators. They encourage families to log on to www.ice.gov for more information on the program.