Need for cyber crime units in Alabama increase - ABC 33/40 - Birmingham News, Weather, Sports

Need for cyber crime units in Alabama increase

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BIRMINGHAM - AL -
Two people now face charges in a Tuscaloosa prostitution bust. Elizabeth Houge and Starlett Lehti are at the Tuscaloosa County Jail facing a count of solicitation of prostitution. Police focused on escorts hired from a website called Backpage.com. Police say people looking for sex are committing crimes with the site. The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office has a special unit that is designated for Internet crimes... and it's growing.  They see around forty cases like this every month. While they work those cases, a unique Alabama organization is helping the victims of those crimes.

"It's a cycle that never ends," Lieutenant Mike Yarbrough, Jefferson County Sheriff Special Investigations said.

 

Local law enforcement says, the prostitution bust in Tuscaloosa is one example of a common type of crime happening every day - in most central Alabama cities.

"We've had cases in here - one child pornography case for instance use Craigslist to meet other people interested in the same thing he was interested in and they would swap child pornography back and forth," Lt. Yarbrough said. "I'm sure the same thing goes on on Backpage as well."

Backpage.com. You can find jobs, furniture, or appliances here. But also, escorts, body rubs - even a fetish page. It's the activity on those pages that leads to time behind bars. 

Officers say dating sites - especially Match.com and Plenty of Fish - are also abused by predators.

"Cyber crimes are growing. It's easy to do," Yarbrough said.

Jefferson County's two biggest types of cyber crime? Identity theft and child pornography. They say the need for cyber units is huge.

"Everybody has a cell phone, everybody has a computer these days," Yarbrough said. "A lot of the detectives want to know who the people are talking to, who they're texting back and forth with."

Online sex solicitation and trafficking is growing. 
Tajuan McCarty was one of those victims. 

"It's very personal for me," Tajuan McCarty, Executive Director, Wellhouse said. "I'm not a Birmingham native.  I was brought here so much that it became home by my pimp and trafficker."

She now helps rescue women from sex crimes through the Wellhouse - a faith-based shelter and transitional house.

"There's a huge need," McCarty said. "Right now, we're full. Our age ranges is from 18-53, so we have a huge need. It touches my heart when I get messages from our girls going, I love you, thank you, because I had no where else to go. No where else that wanted me, no where else that would accept me."

A Freedom Crusade is planned for this Saturday at Kelly Ingram Park supporting those victims. Artwork will be auctioned and musicians will perform. It's from 10:30 a.m. until 2:30 p.m. Here is a link for more information: http://the-wellhouse.org/


 

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