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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Watching out for children: Sexual predators can be tough to detect

Sunday, July 20, 2003

SIKESTON -- Since the beginning of June, two Sikeston men have been arrested and charged with numerous counts of sexual assaults on children. While many people like to believe that they live in a town where this doesn't happen. The reality is in today's world it is everywhere and it is very difficult to detect.

"The first thing people have to realize is that it is no longer the guy hiding in the bushes wearing a trench coat," said Lt. Mark Crocker of the Sikeston Department of Public Safety. "These people doing this are family members or people who have gained trust from the family. We have to dissuade the notion that it is the guy hiding in the bushes and start educating children that if somebody is touching them in a way they feel is wrong, they need to tell their parents."

Crocker said that one of the problems in cases where children are sexually assaulted are there are really no signs to look for. The people who are doing this come in all ages, sizes and nationalities.

"I would like to say that this and that are signs but I can't," Crocker said. "These predators are looking for any way they can to gain the trust of children.

"I bet if you surveyed the nation, about 90 to 95 percent of the sexual assaults on children the predators were family members or close family friends."

Many cases involve stepparents and stepchildren making them likely candidates, but as one local arrest revealed, the predators can even be serving in a position such as a church janitor.

The methods predators use to lure children into situations also vary and can even be something such as having the child sit on their lap while playing a game on the computer. A law requiring all convicted sex offenders to register in the area where they live is designed to help law enforcement fight these types of crime, however the plan doesn't always work as designed.

"It probably would help if all (convicted sex offenders) were all registered, but they aren't," Crocker said. "People are moving from all over the United States and unless they are under a parole officer, most won't tell anybody when they move to a new area."

Crocker explained that a parent's relationship with their children plays an important role in keeping their kids from being sexually abused.

"Children have to be willing to tell their parents that 'Little Johnny' touched me in a place I don't like, because 'Little Johnny' will keep touching them until somebody stops him," Crocker said. "Parents are going to have to have a good relationship with their children. They have to listen and if their child tells them something they are going to have to look into it a little bit and even report it to the police.

"Parents have to use common sense and be protective of their children. It is a shame to say, but we just don't live in a safe society any more."

Anyone with information of sexual abuse is encouraged to contact Sikeston DPS at 471-6200 or Crimestoppers at 471-1500. Calls can be kept confidential.