For Corpus Christi police captain Donald Moore, the last two years have been eye-opening.
“It’s actually pretty disturbing on how many cases that we have,” he said.
Capt. Moore heads up the Corpus Christi Police Department’s Internet Crimes Against Children task force, which investigates offenses that he says only grow more complex, as technology does.
“These predators are out there looking for different apps to use constantly to target children…gaming systems, console systems, everything,” Moore explained to KRIS 6 News.
Tracking down these criminals is a tall task for the task force, which has only two investigators, including detective Micheal Ilse.
“The advent of the internet just spurred on how these predators can find kids,” Ilse said.
“These predators have great knowledge of the internet and they take advantage to groom these children. They know how to get on the internet, what sites kids or on, what games kids are playing. And when they do that, they have great access to kids.”
Ilse said it can be a challenge to stay a step ahead of these offenders but the task force is proactive, conducting operations at least once a year.
“Getting on some social media sites in an undercover capacity and doing those kinds of things to kind of supersede and get in front of these guys that are doing these things, and women,” Ilse told KRIS 6 News.
These operations are in addition to the tips they receive. One such tip led to the arrest and conviction of Matthew Lucio, who used Facebook to lure and sexually assault several young girls.
“We ended up, I believe, recovering 8 to approximately 12 victims — other victims — that we were able to identify,” detective Alicia Escobar said.
As a result of the task force’s investigation, Lucio was sentenced to life in federal prison.
“That’s why I continue to work these types of cases because I feel like it’s most rewarding to be able to save many more children from being victimized by predators just like him,” Escobar said.
The hard work of the task force has been rewarded. Between 2016 and 2018, 22 of its federal cases were sent for prosecution. In total, those convictions resulted in 228 years worth of sentences and two life sentences for those offenders.
Capt. Moore says their work will continue. However, he also has this advice for parents.
“Monitor your kids’ information — their phones, their communications. You may be the bad guy but at least they won’t end up victim to this.”
As for the people committing these crimes, Moore said, “If you’re producing, if you’re in possession of or you’re transmitting child pornography, you’re going to see me at the door one of these days. I promise.”
The task force also does presentations around the area to advise children and parents on how to stay safe on the internet and social media. You can call 361-886-2665.