The Internet has changed many things about how we relate to one another and conduct business. Information is flowing freer than it ever has before. Where it was once difficult to locate a special item, now all one needs to do is "Google" it. Websites, like Facebook, make it easy to find old friends and schoolmates.


The Internet has changed many things about how we relate to one another and conduct business. Information is flowing freer than it ever has before. Where it was once difficult to locate a special item, now all one needs to do is "Google" it. Websites, like Facebook, make it easy to find old friends and schoolmates.

Unfortunately, this freedom and ease of use is being taken advantage of by those that harm and exploit children.

According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), one- in-seven youth receive a sexual solicitation or approach over the Internet. Data from the NCMEC's Cyber Tipline, which is run in cooperation with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, indicates there were 3,456 reports of child pornography in the week ending Jan. 31, 2011. To date, the tipline has received 906,449 such reports.

Clearly something needs to be done, and the McPherson Police Department is on the case.

During Monday's city commission meeting, McPherson Police Chief Dennis Shaw announced the appointment of a detective who will be the "go-to" person in his department for crimes related to the online sexual exploitation of children. The detective, Mike Mellott, has a degree in computer science, and has undergone specialized training in online crimes against children.

As this position was not budgeted for in the current fiscal year, the McPherson Police Department needs to raise $8,000 to purchase computers, scanners and other equipment to really make this position work. The department has already raised $2,500.

We at The Sentinel are asking the community to lend a hand, and donate whatever it can to fund a position that is, unfortunately, sorely needed. Donations are tax-deductible, and Shaw said the department would be interested in equipment donations as well.

We would also remind our readers that our community is not immune to this problem. In the past two months, two McPherson County residents were found or pleaded guilty to crimes involving the sexual abuse or exploitation of children. Furthermore, two more cases involving similar charges are set for later this year.

Law enforcement has the desire and the personnel to combat this growing problem. Let's come together as a community and help give them the tools. To donate, contact Shaw at (620) 245-1200.

The McPherson Sentinel