JACKSON COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) – Several local law enforcement agencies, including the Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, Panama City Beach Police Department, Walton County Sheriff’s Office and FDLE, recently worked together to convict an Alabama man after he arranged to meet online with what he thought was a 14-year-old girl. When he arrived for the meeting, he was met by local law enforcement instead.
“It was an operation where we had undercover officers online in chat rooms,” Jackson County Sheriff Donnie Edenfield said.
“We are one of many agencies that participate in these types of investigations that focus on people using the Internet to victimize children,” said Panama City Beach Police Chief JR Talamantez.
Many people may think that crimes like this can only happen in big cities, but this crime happened in the small town of Marianna.
Local law enforcement says it can happen to anyone.
“There are predators preying on our children for sex, and they’re using social media apps,” Edenfield said.
“The internet is not a safe place, our children need to understand how dangerous it is,” Talamantez said.
However, there are ways for parents to protect their children from these types of online predators.
“Talk to them like the danger is right in front of them because it’s real,” Talamantez said. “Be frank with them, be sincere with them and resolve the situation and don’t be afraid to hurt them.”
Law enforcement officials say their goal is the same as yours, to protect local children.
“Don’t go to Jackson County to meet a kid,” Edenfield said. “Because you can meet a Jackson County Sheriff’s Deputy, because the most important job we have in the Sheriff’s Office, or one of the most important, is to protect our youth.”
Officials say if you suspect your child is in a situation like this with an online predator, contact your local law enforcement agency immediately.
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