PAXTON, Ill. (WCIA) — One police department is working to bring many suspected child predators out from behind their screens through a new operation. They’re calling it an undercover sting.
So far, the Paxton Police Department has arrested 11 men. Nine are from Central Illinois:
- Ruben Aguilera-Santoyo, 34, of Onarga
- Kenneth Burklow Jr., 37, of New Lenox
- Richard Durbin, 41, of Rantoul
- Danny Dutton, 62, of Vandalia
- Joshua Heisler, 30, of Paxton
- Matthew Hickerson, 34, of Buckley
- Andy Leppard, 42, of Milford
- Roel Lopez, 41, of Arcola
- Donald O’Toole, 37, of Danville
- Robert Schaub, 25, of Gibson City
- Cody Zoller, 34, of Urbana
Through the sting, an officer poses online as a teenager to lure the child predators to a Paxton motel. This helps lead to arrests. Ford County Sheriff Mark Doran said these predators are everywhere and it’s a good way to catch them in the act.
“They could care less whether your child is a straight A student or if they’re on the volleyball team or the football team,” he said.
Doran added that there are hundreds of sites where they are preying on children. He said the arrests have made him realize how big of a problem it is; you could be talking to someone anywhere in the world.
He urged parents to look out for their children and teach them safe online practices early.
“Develop that trust between you and your children that, ‘Hey, I’m here to protect you and these things are out there,'” Doran said.
Doran added that if a child shows you a worrisome page, you should report it to law enforcement or their school social worker.
It’s also important to recognize warning signs from your child, such as if they are becoming secluded, don’t want to be around you or if they are taking off at unusual hours.
Doran said that you can also drive by the location where your child is. If they question it, you can tell them that you want to make sure they are safe.
“The reality is that these parents need to let their kids know that you are ultimately there to protect them and you love them,” he said.
Paxton Police said this is all ongoing, with more warrants to arrest three more expected soon.
Coy Cornett, Paxton’s Police Chief, said they also hope to add more technology to this project in the future. A cell phone and laptop computer could be used if they start to work closely with the FBI. If they do, the result of the operation may be charged in federal court instead of the state.
The undercover officer posing as a teenager will be recognized at the next Paxton City Council meeting.