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Southern Virginia ICAC Marks 15 Years Of Fighting Online Predators

It's the dark side of the Internet many of us would like to forget.Yet, for more than 15 years, Southern Virginia's Internet Crimes Against Children Division continues to work, keeping children safe from predators around the world.The unit now features a full staff of investigators, but in the beginning, there was one.Former Sergeant Sergio Kopelev recalls the horrors he saw during an investigation into an online harassment case, saying "The Things I saw was just beyond anything I could imagine. I went to the boss (Bedford County Sheriff Mike Brown), and I said 'You know, this case is down - we identified the guy - but you can't imagine the number of people who want to come to Bedford to molest kids. We should do something about this.' "And they did.Delegate Ben Cline recalls the reaction when Sheriff Brown went to Washington, to show the examples of the exploitation they'd seen. Recalls Cline "The reaction these men and women got from seeing some of these heinous crimes prompted them into action immediately."Kopelev agrees, adding "This is before cybercrime was sexy. It's before anyone wanted to know anything about it."With more than 88 million children using the internet on a daily basis, it's something everyone wants to know about know. Sheriff Brown says his squad is ready to continue the fight. Now a private consultant, Kopelev says the best tool starts with educating and empowering children, saying "It starts and ends with "We've got to give our kids self-esteem". It'll help them not be victims of harassment, to say "no, you can't do that, because I know this isn't right." To me, that's the key."

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