Detective Thomas Wisniewski, in charge of the Internet crimes division for the sheriff’s office, is one of five people tasked with working Crimes Against Children in Cherokee County.
The past year has been an active one for Wisniewski, including the arrest of a man whose case was described by Sheriff Roger Garrison as the largest in Cherokee County history.
As another year gets under way, Wisniewski is not letting up on what he sees as a growing problem.
“As technology advances, it is only going to get worse,” Wisniewski said. “We are now investigating at least one Facebook case a week. We have bullying on Facebook or Twitter and other Internet crimes against children, texting, sexting, we track those kinds of crimes.”
In July a Woodstock man was arrested for possessing more than 100,000 electronic files of child porn and later indicted by a Cherokee County grand jury on 22 counts of sexual exploitation of children.
Richard Ensley, 37, was charged with allegedly possessing the images of child pornography on his computer.
“I am trained to work cases undercover,” Wisniewski said. “That particular case itself, he was using a file sharing program for 14 years to look for, distribute and download the images.”
Wisniewski said with advanced training through the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and in working with the FBI he can now search for Internet Protocol, or IP, addresses that link back to Cherokee County. Ensley’s listed Woodstock in the IP, he said.
“ I go out there and I try to monitor people sharing child pornography. In that case, we were able to obtain a search warrant, and he had hundreds of thousands of images on his computer,” the detective said. “In the last three years we have been more proactive. We actually have the technology to look for these guys.”
During that time, the Internet crimes division has charged at least 35 to 40 people in Cherokee County, he said.
Cherokee County is one of about 30 other counties in the state that have someone trained to work on the statewide task force battling the crime.
A lot of the pictures and movies distributed as child pornography come from the Middle East, Eastern Europe and other countries, the detective said.
But some of it captured private Facebook posts of young people with their boyfriends or girlfriends, he stressed.
“There are a lot of perverts out there and once a picture gets distributed, it never gets deleted,” the detective said.
Wisniewski said one of his jobs is to educate parents so they understand that once they or their child shares a photo, it is out there forever.
“When we do a presentation for parents and kids, we tell the parents to be open-minded, to make sure that communication is open and that they let their children know what you send to your boyfriend can get shared. You give your picture to your boyfriend and two years later, it can come back to haunt you at a job or college interview,” Wisniewski said. “There is a lot of kids sexting and distributing to just one person. But they save it and it is accessible.”
The majority of the arrests are pretty hardcore, he said. The child pornographers are for the most part not making money, the programs are free, but they spend hours a day on the computer.
Almost all those arrested are men, he said, with only one woman ever arrested in Cherokee County and charged with the crime.
“Typically, it is a male between 25 and 35, a white male,” he said. “Typically, they are more computer savvy than their wives, and hide it on the computer on external hard drive. I have had some people that do it at night when their spouse sleeps.”
The detective said that he mostly stays in background, and the unit has three computers that are worked 24 hours a day in searching for perpetrators.
“The biggest thing we try to say is for parents to be proactive. Parents these days have to be almost cops themselves,” Wisniewski said. “They need to know the child’s passwords, monitor and go in and go through the computer. Make sure you know your kids” Facebook and Twitter accounts.”
The detective said it is not about not trusting your child.
“It is about not trusting everyone else out there. Parents need to know who he or she accepts as friends and how easy it is for a child to become a victim.”