5 Uncovers

Dec 12, 2012 12:41 AM by Jacqui Heinrich, jheinrich@koaa.com

More child sex crimes out of Springs; police say watch your kids online

22-year-old Zachary Siegel is the Colorado Springs man just arrested in Breckenridge, accused of having sex with a 12-year-old girl he met on Facebook. According to police, it all started when Siegel asked her for nude pictures; the girl told police they eventually had sex at his home.

This news comes just after law enforcement put 12 other people behind bars, accused of crimes related to child prostitution. Investigators found a child sex ring operating in 6 cities across southern Colorado, including Colorado Springs.

Local Crimes Against Children investigator Sgt. Bill Dehart says although there's always someone responsible for a child's exploitation, we have to pay attention to changes in our society that are making them vulnerable. "I think you see a hypersexualization of children," Dehart told News 5's Jacqui Heinrich in an interview Tuesday. "We see it through TV shows and obviously we're quick to blame the media, but the reality is kids are leveraging this technology as well. You can't walk down the street without seeing someone with a device in their head, their head down."

Sgt. Dehart says the anonymity of a virtual society provides a false safe haven. "We have kids sending pictures to each other, we have pictures being sent to adults, so we see the level of comfortable-- the comfort level with these kids-- coming down. They're more apt to get involved with these situations, and what's happening is people are also taking advantage of them," he said.

In that major sex ring bust, the two known victims were just 15 and 17 years old. Police say they were beaten and given drugs, forced into submission. It's a taboo subject, but it's happening in our own backyard. "There are about 100,000 kids under the age of 18 currently involved in the commercial sexual exploitation of children," Sgt. Dehart told News 5-- which is why these recent arrests aren't the end of the story. "To sum it up, it's occurring in Colorado Springs so be aware and more importantly, if you see something that you're concerned about, let us know."

Police also discovered the people who are trafficking these kids in the sex trade are moving around more and more; minors are being transported all over, so they're harder to find and rescue. Sgt. Dehart says a tip from the public is the best way to fight this crime, so public vigilance is important.

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