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HPD gets new crime-fighting program

Oct. 10, 2012 @ 12:00 AM

HUNTINGTON -- The Huntington Police Department has a new tool for battling Internet predators.

On Tuesday, the Safe Surfin' Foundation of Bedford, Va., presented the department with a computer package to be utilized for fighting online sexual predators. The system costs about $4,000. The Moose Lodge #2586 in Barboursville raised funds for the system.

The computer equipment, dubbed a "Cop-In-A-Box unit," was presented by Sheriff Michael J. Brown of Virginia, co-founder of the Safe Surfin' Foundation, along with Ron Porter, director of research for the organization.

The Cop-In-A-Box program has been an asset to local departments around the country because they are constantly facing funding shortages while still trying to fight the growing and "horrific" problem of child pornography, Porter and Brown said. The West Virginia State Police does a tremendous job targeting this problem, and this will help the Huntington Police Department fall in line, Porter said.

Huntington Police Chief Skip Holbrook said the equipment will be a great asset to help in the department's growing efforts to focus on online criminal activity involving children.

Huntington police officers Chuck Kingery, Eddie Prichard and Josh Neild each completed a year-long training program at Marshall University through the West Virginia State Police as part of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. The program aims to battle those who use the Internet to produce and trade child pornography, and lure innocent children away from their homes through email, chat rooms, online gaming and social networking.

"It's a significant amount of training, with different modules that they go through," Holbrook said, also saying these responsibilities are above and beyond these officers' other assignments. Task force groups help provide resources to act as "force multipliers" to help them tackle crimes more effectively, he said.

The three Huntington officers graduated from the program in April and have since identified about 20 individuals in the Huntington area who are suspects of internet crimes against children, Holbrook said.

The new equipment received Tuesday is a multi-processor, high-powered computer.

"You have to have pretty sturdy horsepower," Brown said. "You can't do it by going to Walmart and buying computers."

The local driving force behind bringing the program to Huntington was Bob Zhea, governor of the Moose Lodge in Barboursville, Porter said.

Others who would like information about the program can contact the lodge, he said. More information about the Safe Surfin' program can be found at www.safesurfin.org.