SEASIDE - As many as 1 in 5 children are solicited on the Internet.
That was just one of several facts students at Broadway Middle School learned Wednesday during a presentation by Chief Investigator Bill Carroll from the Oregon Department of Justice Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
Carroll's two-part visit to Seaside encompassed a presentation to local middle school students and was followed by a similar presentation to parents Wednesday evening.
"When I was in school, the teacher would take the note and tear it up," said Carroll about Internet postings. "This is a note you can't take back."
An incident in February involving an Internet predator, with his last known address in Astoria, soliciting a Seaside woman whom he believed to be 15, reminded Seaside Chief of Police Bob Gross of an Oregon Police Chiefs' Conference during which Carroll was the speaker.
Gross's goal was to have the presentation at Broadway Middle School prior to the end of the school year in order to reach students and parents before the idle days of summer.
Carroll says he was happy to be involved, because protecting children from Internet predators is a priority.
The program he presented is called "Operation Black Ice" and carries with it the motto "You won't know we're there until it's too late."
Students and parents are taught about safety and what sort of information is best left unsaid on the Internet. To bring the point home, Carroll showed a short video explaining how much information can be gathered from something as innocuous as a chat-room screen name. In 20 minutes, according to the presentation, a savvy predator can have knowledge of an e-mail address, phone number, home address and directions to get there - along with names of family members, friends and schools a target has attended.
"The Internet has opened up the world," said Carroll. "Everything's there, you just have to know how to unlock it."
For Carroll, a 33-year veteran of law enforcement, Internet crimes is area in which the law is not far behind the criminal. He cited instances in which law enforcement is constantly having to play catch-up, including the growing methamphetamine problem, but says the Internet is not one of those instances.
"We're finally starting out close to the start of it," said Carroll.
To keep on top of it, ICAC has 135 affiliates throughout the state of Oregon working with them to stem the flow of Internet crimes.
Two keys to safety addressed in Carroll's presentation were the need to know someone offline and to keep passwords private.
The first, putting a face to the name on the screen, is something Carroll says parents and kids both need to do to ensure their safety. To solidify the importance of this safety measure, Carroll described two separate incidents handled by his office, in which young girls were asked to send photos of themselves in some state of nudity by their online "friends."
The presentation concluded with Carroll's second tip of keeping passwords private.
He also cautioned the students in attendance about honesty, asking how many had lied about something while using the Internet or in a chat. After a show of hands, Carroll reminded the students that if they had lied about something while online it was likely the person they were "chatting" with had also lied.
"We just hope the kids learned something," said Gross.