An investigation into online predators by the Somervell County Sheriff’s Department, which led to the arrest of Stephenville Fire Marshal Gary Nabors on Oct. 15, has landed three other suspects in jail including two located within an hour of Stephenvill

An investigation into online predators by the Somervell County Sheriff’s Department, which led to the arrest of Stephenville Fire Marshal Gary Nabors on Oct. 15, has landed three other suspects in jail including two located within an hour of Stephenville.

Harvey Ray Curry, 60, of Brownwood, was arrested on Oct. 12 for online solicitation of a minor under 14. Kenneth Charles Moore, 23, of Acton, was arrested on Oct. 7 for online solicitation of a minor and Roger Dale Landry II of Orange County was arrested for online solicitation of a minor and promotion of child pornography.

Chief Deputy Darrell McCravey said one of the initial investigations stemmed from a complaint, but he would not disclose which case.

The investigations, which began about a month ago, are nothing new to the department.

“There have always been people out there looking to take advantage of a kid,” McCravey said. “The Internet just gives them easy access.”

Lt. Anders Dahl said Somervell County, along with other local law enforcement agencies, receive training on online predators on a regular basis, usually from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC).

During the week of Aug. 3, NCMEC estimated that 105 children were enticed online for sexual acts.

“The amazing part is how many of them (predators) are out there,” McCravey said. “It’s very scary.”

And it’s not just the Internet that has become a playground for sexual predators of minors. With all of the technology available, even a cell phone can be used as an electronic weapon.

According to the Texas Penal Code, an offense of online solicitation of a minor is committed when a person, over the age of 17, communicates in a sexually explicit manner or distributes sexually explicit material to a child to intentionally arouse the sexual desires of any person “over the Internet, by electronic mail or text message or other electronic message service or system, or through a commercial online service.”

These offenses are considered third degree felonies, unless the minor is under 14, or is an individual the suspect believes is under 14, in which case it is a second degree felony.

The National Juvenile Online Victimization (N-JOV) Study, launched in July 2000, estimated that 2,577 arrests were made by all levels of law enforcement for individuals committing sexual crimes against minors on the Internet.

The majority of offenders were non-Hispanic white males over the age of 25 and were acting alone. Sixty-seven percent of the offenders possessed child pornography.

In many cases, several law enforcement agencies worked a case together. Eighty-five percent of the cases involved state, county and local agencies and 46 percent involved federal agencies.

In the Somervell County investigations, Dahl said the sheriff’s department also worked with local, state and federal officials, including other sheriff’s departments, Texas Rangers and the Secret Service.

Working with other agencies can often make catching an online predator easier.

“We can file (charges) where the person (victim) they are talking to is, where they are or where the meeting takes place,” McCravey said.

Depending on the facts and the evidence, a case can bypass state filings and be taken to the federal level immediately, Dahl said.

While manpower is helpful when tracking predators, the major advantage law enforcement possesses is its secrecy.

“These are undercover investigations. The secrecy is what allows us to be effective,” Dahl said.

Somervell County is not willing to release any information on how they perform their online investigations, but did offer advice for parents.

“The number one thing parents can do is make sure they have that computer out in a place where they can see it,” McCravey said. “Monitor the use of that computer.”