Charleston hasn't seen a so-called "sextortion" case that has triggered involvement from Homeland Security, but it has seen several lesser cases of teenagers being encouraged to post risque images of themselves.
These cases have not led to arrests. Some have been referred to other law enforcement agencies, said Charleston Police Detective Doug Galluccio, who also serves as a task force officer with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's child exploitation investigations unit.
Galluccio said there have been four similar cases involving students at Burke High and West Ashley Middle schools. They involved apps such as Instagram, Snapchat, Kik Messenger and Tango.
Those who posted the pictures "were either naive or had self-esteem issues or just got caught up with the moment and responded," he said.
Meanwhile, South Carolina law enforcement officials now have a new tool that may help them crack down on sextortion and similar cases.
On June 9, Gov. Nikki Haley signed a bill that closed what some considered a child pornography loophole and that broadened the state's definition of sexual exploitation of a minor when it comes to photographs. Galluccio said previously, the photograph had to show a minor engaged in a sexual act with another minor or an adult.
Today, the law covers photographs and images of minors in "state of sexually explicit nudity when a reasonable person would infer the purpose is sexual stimulation."
"It is a huge victory and a step in the right direction for us," he said, adding that it brings the state's law closer in line with federal statutes.
All these sorts of cases underscore the need for parents to monitor their child's online interactions, devices and apps "at all times," Galluccio added.
For instance, he noted his own 10-year-old daughter had a Tango account and used it to post normal pictures of herself and friends. "Other people started to comment on them, and that was the end of her Tango account," he said. "I practice what I preach. It's a completely different world."
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771.
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