Meeting at Quigley’s Restaurant
593 Columbia Turnpike
East Greenbush, NY
April 6, 2017
Members Attending (17): Debbie Rodriguez, Murray Forth, Bill Dowd, John Sawchuk, Terry Brewer, Ron Annis, Jim Butterworth, Dean Calamaras, Doris Calamaras, Peter Brown, Debbie Brown, Ray Hannan, Phil Kellerman, Charlie Foote, Dick Drumm, Roberto Martinez, Carole Spencer.
Guests (2): Chris Smith, Vivian Brehm.
PROGRAM: “Internet Safety: How To Catch A Predator”
Our speaker was Chris Smith, a Colonie Police Department detective who for nearly seven years has been assigned to the FBI’s Albany office Child Exploitation Task Force. That staff, which has just eight fulltimers, covers an area consisting of 10 New York counties and the entire state of Vermont.
Smith said the epidemic of online pedophelia is growing exponentially despite the success task forces such as his have had in combating the problem in recent years.
“The availability of pornography and online stalking and followup sexual abuse of kids has grown because of the internet and social media, but we now have better software and other tools to catch them,” Smith said. “We have software programs running 24/7 year-round to fight the problem.”
He explained that the “darknet” is a major problem for law enforcement, using cloud storage, DropBox and other methods to collect and share child pornography. (Note: The darknet is an overlay network accessible only by specific software, configurations, or authorization, often using standard communications protocols and ports.) Not only can predators gain access to children through commonplace social media such as Facebook and Twitter, they also can get around privacy blocks through certain apps and even such gaming systems ax PS3, PS4 and X-Box. Often, such access is not readily apparent to parents who are otherwise diligent in trying to monitor what their children are doing online.
In just the past several years, the local FBI Task Force has executed more than 200 search warrants and made more than 100 arrests. Smith said its conviction rate is 100%. In addition to monitoring, legally trapping and arresting suspected predators, the Task Force provides programs for schools to warn students about the dangers and works with them and their teachers and school administrators to create an awareness of how to avoid predators.
Smith himself is trained in how to pose online as an underage child, and is forensically trained in how to interview children about abuse or being threatened. He spends a lot of time in such pursuits as well as in questioning arrestees in such case.
• Usually teens ages 10-15, but the age is getting younger and younger.
• Race used to be predominantly white, but now is mixed.
• About 16% of victims are boys with concerns about their sexuality.
• About 84% are girls often “in love with” the offenders.
• Victims often come from single-parent or dysfunctional families with minimal supervision, and who are looking for self-worth.
• Children often have unsupervised access to electronic devices.
• They are easily led by adults.
• They often have a need for adult attention or a need to defy parents.
• Usually age 25 to 50, although the trend seems to be toward younger perps.
• Expert manipulators who know how to “groom” potential victims.
• Rather than using common popular websites or direct cellphone conversations with children, they tend to use a growing number of apps accessible via cellphones — Instagram, Snapchat, Vine, Twitter, Ask, Whisper and, most popular of all and without privacy blocks, Kik.
• They can be married men — and they are virtually without exception men — with families and jobs doing this, but there are cases of unemployed men who learn how to become experts at the games children use so they can enter into the child’s world.
“The situation is outrageous,” Smith said. “Our kids are getting inundated. It’s killing them. By sixth grade, virtually every kid has a cellphone and can’t be constantly monitored. If you don ‘t get them a phone, they’re ridiculed as the kid with no phone; if you give them a phone they’re immediately vulnerable.”
He also shared anecdotes about several predators the Task Force has arrested and who now are serving lengthy or life sentences in prison. “I also end up talking to their families. Sometimes they are completely unaware, but in one case we wound up arresting the parents.” It turned out their adult son had been molesting infants in the parents’ day care center and they knew about it.
ANNOUNCEMENTS & BUSINESS
PAINTING PROJECT — A local painter who is creating a series of images based on local volunteers to display in a show at the East Greenbush Public Library asked the club to nominate a member to be portrayed. By acclamation, we selected Jim Leyhane.
EASTER BASKET UPDATE — Project coordinator Bill Dowd reported that between the club’s efforts and a parallel effort at Columbia High School led by John Sawchuk it appears we will come close to or slightly surpass last year’s 50-basket level for Circles of Mercy’s annual “Easter Baskets for Cate’s Kids.” He noted, however, that member contributions were less this year than last year even though we have more members now. He thanked everyone who did contribute for their generosity.
SHELTER BOX REPORT — ShelterBox has been working for several years with Hand In Hand for Syria, also a humanitarian organization. The recent chemical warfare attack on civilians there is putting a further strain on supplies and human resources. Bill Dowd, our ShelterBox liaison officer, said that while it seems we are continually asked for donations, anyone who pays attention to the news knows there never is a shortage of disasters and people in need of assistance. He asked that people willing to make contributions small or large go to the ShelterBox website for information on how to help.
COOKING AT RONALD McDONALD HOUSE — Terry Brewer will talk to the breakfast meeting attendees about the need for volunteers to help cook breakfast at Ronald McDonald House on Saturday, April 22. Anyone interested should contact him ASAP. … We have the full complement of six for the Wednesday, May 31, dinner there being coordinated by Bill Dowd. He has April Dowd, Carole Spencer, Roberto Martinez, Debbie Brown and Peter Brown volunteering to assist him.
EXCHANGE STUDENT UPDATE — A second host family was found for Ella Real, our Rotary Exchange student from Brazil. They will host her through mid-May, although we hope that can be extended through the end of her stay here in June. Ella will visit the club before her departure to tell us about her experience here.
AREA 8 PROJECT — Assistant District Governor Jack Faddegon continues to plan a joint work project with the Area 8 clubs — SRC, Colonie-Guilderland, Lansingburgh and Cohoes — to help the Shaker Heritage Society in May. Potential chores include creating a stone fence, installing a new sign, plating flowers, cutting weeds, etc. A picnic lunch would be provided. Debbie Rodriguez said she will share details as they become available.
DISTRICT CONFERENCE — Member were reminded they can register at a discounted price through this Friday for the May 5-7 District Conference in Lake George.
NEXT MEETING — 6:15 p.m. Thursday, April 13, at Quigley’s. Club member Debbie Brown will speak on the topic “What’s the Buzz About Bees?”