Online undercover investigations slowing in the Heartland - KFVS12 News & Weather Cape Girardeau, Carbondale, Poplar Bluff

Online undercover investigations slowing in the Heartland

(Source: KFVS) (Source: KFVS)
POPLAR BLUFF, MO (KFVS) - Authorities say undercover operations are an effective way of catching online predators, but it is on the decline in the Heartland.

The method was used by Arkansas authorities to arrest 68-year-old family doctor Donald Lamoureaux. The former Dexter physician's accused of trying to meet a mom and her 4-year-old daughter so he could have sexual contact with the child.

Detective Danny Hicks is part of a one-man department in Poplar Bluff that tracks down cyber criminals.

"It's a lot different than developing a case on the street," Hicks said.

He works with the SEMO Internet Task Force. It covers 15 counties and pursues anyone who might be digitally exploiting children.

"If it does become an online investigation it will be forwarded to me," Hicks said.

The task force had two full-time officers when Heartland News profiled it in 2009, but Hicks said recent budget cuts forced the department to change the way they go after online offenders.

"The proactive part of it has seized a lot,” Hicks said. “We don't have the man power."

Hicks said he still gets plenty of leads, especially from federal agencies, where he might find cyber criminals.

"These cases were always here by now were noticing them and able to prosecute," Hicks said. “That's simply because the productivity and proactive approach.”

From the time a tip comes in until it reaches his desk he says it could be months. Something he hopes that can change soon.

"We hope to in the near future because we've done a lot of that in the past," he said. "We've made a lot of successful cases with it."

Hicks said preventing cyber crimes from happening to kids can start at home.

He said it is a good idea for parents to know what social media sites and apps their kids are using and monitor it from time to time.

Copyright 2015 KFVS. All rights reserved.
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