Editorial: Stepping up enforcement against exploitation
It is the type of thing we mostly see played out as TV drama, or headlines from another town, but every once in awhile the disturbing reality of child exploitation hits home. South Lake Tahoe isn’t Anywhere, USA, it’s here. And now we must cope with the reality that these heinous crimes may have been committed in our own backyard.
This week it was a revealed that a longtime teacher in the South Tahoe Unified School District is being accused of producing, participating in, and distributing child pornography. Parents are rightly concerned, and the school district has taken what appears to be the proper steps to assure parents that filters are in place to protect children.
Karsten Gronwold, a 12-year district veteran who has taught many South Lake Tahoe children, and had extensive contact with children in his participation in extracurricular groups, is now under the microscope after authorities claim to have caught him trying to distribute pornography. Images, including images that depict sexual acts with minors, were allegedly found on a laptop he used for work. Several personal computers and other hardware were also found at his home.
While the district and law enforcement are encouraging potential victims to come forward, and following leads into what kind of contact he has had with local children, parents are asking for reassurance that sexual deviants are found before they can act again. The problem: Without a criminal or personnel record to reference, there is little that can be done before someone is caught committing or attempting to commit a crime.
Even with this reality, schools can implement more frequent checks of computer equipment used for work. They can even restrict use of computers off campus, or employ forensic software that tracks a user’s habits. They can communicate to parents and students the importance of reporting impropriety. The most successful approach for the protection of children, however, may lie with law enforcement.
The proliferation of file sharing on the Internet has grown exponentially, and is difficult to check. For every person who is caught using the Internet as a tool to commit crime, there are presumably countless others that get away with it. Clever criminals, especially in the digital age, are able to stay ahead of law enforcement, so it is incumbent that law enforcement is given the tools it needs to aggressively pursue hi-tech criminals.
The investigation methods that resulted in Gronwold’s arrest have been shown to be effective. But just like the Internet is in its infancy, so too is Internet crime. The problem of hi-tech crime, especially where children are the victims, will only get worse if law enforcement cannot evolve in this new world. As parents, we rely on law enforcement to protect our children from criminal mischief. We are also obligated to give them the tools and mandate to get the job done.
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