Three-member Floyd County Police team focused on Internet crimes against children; honored by GBI for the most cyber porn tips in the state last year.

Three-member Floyd County Police team focused on Internet crimes against children; honored by GBI for the most cyber porn tips in the state last year.

Capt. Ojilvia Lom and Sgt. Misty Pledger with their award from the GBI. They, with Lt. Brandon Robinson, were honored with the certificate of excellence as they worked the most child porn cybertips in 2018.

By Natalie Simms
nsimmshh@att.net

Internet crimes against children are something we are hearing about far too often these days. Whether its child pornography or online solicitation for sex with children, local law enforcement is spending an increasing amount of time investigating these types of cases.

The Floyd County Police Department has three officers who focus on internet crimes against children within the Criminal Investigation Division. This team includes Capt. Ojilvia Lom, Lt. Brandon Robinson and Sgt. Misty Pledger. The team was just honored by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) with a ‘Certificate of Excellence’ for working the most child porn cyber tips in 2018 through the Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

Last year alone, they worked 82 cyber tips that came in to Floyd County from the GBI in three groups: Operation Southern Impact, Operation Interception and Operation Paladin. In all, more than 120 people were arrested in those cases. According to the police department, approximately 40 percent of those tips led to charges and arrests. (Click each “operation” for more on the background of these cases, one of which culminated during Super Bowl week in Atlanta).

“Tips come in through the GBI. They get a lot from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, via social media, from Internet service providers and some from citizen calls. Anything reported or traced to Floyd County comes to us,” says Lom.

“We follow-up depending on the tip…sometimes it may just be inappropriate messages and other times it may be hundreds of pornographic images of children. We have to investigate each one and determine if it’s a criminal case or not and if we can make an arrest.”

Lom and her team have 34 years of experience in law enforcement. She has 17 years with Floyd County Police, working in Criminal Investigations since 2010 and specifically in Internet crimes against children since 2016. Robinson has 10 years of experience. Pledger has seven years and started in 2017 with crimes against children.

All three have been specially trained to investigate Internet crimes against children, including how to conduct undercover chat investigations and child pornography investigations.

In addition, they have to stay up-to-date on the newest apps and technology.

“Any social media or sites with chat options are targets for predators,” says Pledger. “So, we have to follow the trends as best we can. There are new apps every day that we have to learn the best we can so we know what’s out there.”

Because of the sensitive nature of their job and how they conduct investigations, they can’t give any more specific details about what they do but it is definitely a tough job. All three are parents, so dealing with what they see every day is challenging.

“I get my strength from my children. I do this for them to make it a safer place for them. When I get to go home and see them, it takes it all away…all that I had to deal with that day,” says Pledger, a mother of three. “We also have a strong faith that helps.”

Lom, who also has three children, says, “What’s gotten me through are the victims I’ve never met…thinking about them and knowing these children went through the difficult part and endured the abuse. I know we’re doing what’s best for the children.

“Every time a picture is shared, that child is revictimized…there is a victim behind the picture and when you keep that in mind, it gets me through.”

Lom says more children and parents know to come forward now if they suspect something is going on but they do have some “words of wisdom” for parents.

“I wish more parents understood that when their child is on social media, they have opened up the world to them,” says Pledger. “You wouldn’t just go drop your child off on Broad Street and leave them to the world  but that is what it’s like with social media…you are giving the world access to your child. My teenagers do not have social media.”

They also advise:

  • Be nosy. It’s your child so know who they are taking to.
  • Check their phones and social media accounts.
  • Cut off the WiFi access at night.
  • If you suspect your child may be a victim or is being contacted by an adult for inappropriate purposes, report it to local law enforcement.

“Talk to your kids about sending nudes. Don’t put your body out there. Teach girls that their body is worth more than that,” says Pledger. “And talk to boys about not asking for it, teach them respect for girls. You can be in serious trouble if the girl is underage and you have nude photos of her on your phone and you will really be in trouble if you share those photos.”

The team has been teaching Internet safety classes for Floyd County students on how to stay safe on the internet, use of social media and what to do if someone asks to meet offline. They have done an internet safety class for parents in the past and may offer that option again in the future.

How to report suspicious activity:

Call the police department at 706-235-7766. Ask for Capt. Lom.

Email her at lomo@floydcountyga.org

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