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Cyber Crimes unit at TPD overwhelmed with child abuse cases

The internet can be complicated and sometimes the best navigators are children who’ve grown up in a world of smart phones and apps. (KTUL)

The internet can be complicated and sometimes the best navigators are children who’ve grown up in a world of smart phones and apps.

Their knowledge is coming at a steep price. More kids are becoming victims of child abuse and child porn.

It’s a pain that Bethany Loerke knows and understands.

“That’s really, down to the bones of it, you’re altering someone’s soul,” said Loerke.

Loerke endured countless years of sexual abuse by her adopted father. He was later found guilty of four counts of sexually abusing a minor child.

“As a kid, you’re told to stay within this room. When something like that happens, it’s taking you across a threshold you’re not supposed to go across until you’re an adult,” said Loerke.

The Cyber Crimes unit at the Tulsa Police Department is supposed to handle all kinds of internet-based cases. The reality is, detectives are only focusing on crimes against children. Their office is continuously flooded with new cases where children are the unsuspecting victims. It’s an alarming trend they’ve seen increasing over the last few yeas.

“We probably need two or three times more investigators to keep up with the case load that’s coming in,” said Detective Joshua Showman.

Showman and about three other detectives work online, uncovering the systematic and choreographed ways predators are targeting children.

“Predators know each other,” said Showman. “They get together and discuss their fantasies for avoiding detection online all the time.”

Showman said chat apps where people can remain anonymous are the most appealing places for predators.

“For some people, their whole motivation in life is to victimize a child,” said Showman.

He said often predators aren’t only looking at child porn online. The majority of the time they’re actively abusing a child.

“I go home every day wishing I had five more hours a day to spend working on these kinds of cases,” said Showman.

But the victims are grateful for the investigators who are working these cases.

“When you think of heroes, you think of someone overseas or in a cape,” said Loerke. “To me those people (police officers) are my heroes.”

Loerke said predators encourage kids to stay silent, which is exactly why she’s speaking out.

“Part of my purpose is to help people who were maybe in that situation, or are in that situation,” said Loerke. “You’re not alone. You’re not a rock.”

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