Canadian County Sheriff’s Office conducts proactive and reactive investigations regarding child exploitation on the Internet or Internet crimes against children. 2023 was a busy year for investigators involved in these investigations. Investigators conducted investigations into the distribution of child pornography, traveler cases where predators would try to pick up children for sex, and sexting incidents in public schools. 

In 2023, investigators worked on 66 internet crimes against children cases. The cases were generated by proactive operations, assignments from the National Center of Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI), school referrals, or citizen referrals. NCMEC and OSBI cases are sent to investigators as Cybertips.  Cybertips generally are cases regarding the distribution of child pornography that was reported by social media platforms. Cybertips are successful due to NCMEC working as a liaison for law enforcement and social media platforms to report users trading child pornography.

Canadian County Sheriff’s Office uses computer forensics to recover evidence in ICAC cases. Investigators commonly find child pornography on cellular phones, laptops, flash drives, and tablets when search warrants are executed. Canadian County Sheriff’s Office forensic lab consists of four working forensic computers along with a portable computer forensic lab for fieldwork. The ability to conduct forensics in the field during search warrants allows investigators to locate child pornography quickly and make arrests in the field, rather than waiting weeks for results from a forensic lab.

In 2023, investigators executed over 30 search warrants on residences in Canadian County for ICAC crimes. This does not include over 100 search warrants sent to internet service providers and social media platforms. It is not uncommon for one case to have multiple social media platforms that require numerous search warrants to locate the suspect in ICAC crimes. 

Investigators arrested 30 suspects in 2023 child pornography or ICAC crimes. These arrests were made during the search warrants or arrest warrants filed with the District Attorney’s office. CCSO investigators are experts in ICAC investigations and are quickly able to determine if a crime has been committed and able to identify the suspect. 

The ICAC unit equipment is kept up to date and investigators are provided with training and peer support. The sheriff’s office also receives grant funds from OSBI to assist in purchasing equipment or specialized training. These partnerships are essential in providing the best means to apprehend suspects who prey on our children.

“I’m extremely proud of the work my investigators performed to protect children this past year, and we’re very blessed to have such a talented group of professionals who are so dedicated to apprehending these heinous criminals,” said Chris West, Canadian County Sheriff.

Investigators are constantly receiving Cybertips and citizen referrals on ICAC-related crimes. The latest trend is that investigators are seeing an increase in cases referred by social media platforms. This increase in cases is not a surprise, as children use social media frequently. It is vitally important to monitor children’s activity when they use social media. Sheriff West encourages anyone to contact his investigators to report child exploitation or if they believe their child is a victim of exploitation.