Carteret County Sheriff Asa Buck said law enforcement always struggles to keep pace with the technology that child predators use.

Carteret County Sheriff Asa Buck said law enforcement always struggles to keep pace with the technology that child predators use. But, he said a donation of a new computer and software would give authorities a small advantage in catching online culprits.

The Safe Surfin’ Foundation, Moose International, and Moose Lodge 2194 in Newport collaborated in the “Cop in a Box” program to purchase $4,000 worth of computer equipment and software to enable the Carteret Sheriff’s Office to target child predators.

Buck said predators use online chat rooms to engage youth and can download and share child pornography on the Internet.

Sheriff Mike Brown, of Bedford County, Va., a member of the Safe Surfin’ Foundation, said the kit is one of about 50 that have been given to local law enforcement agencies in North Carolina in the last year and a half.

Buck said his office would work closely with the State Bureau of Investigation and its Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

“Carteret County now, with this new technology and an investigator assigned, will assist us in these investigations and prosecutions,” Buck said.

Craven County and the New Bern Police Department already have an officer working on child predators. Havelock police have received similar computer and software help from the Moose Lodge in Havelock.

“In Craven County, just within the last couple of weeks, the sheriff’s department there has charged a person from out of the county, somebody in the triangle, with communicating with an underage person by the Internet, and we have a pending charge there,” Buck said.

Buck said that software on the computer helps authorities identify sexual predators.

“It works in chat rooms,” he said. “It will help us trace back from the victim’s computer to the actual offender, so they can be located. Often times the offender is not local. They’re not within a two- or three-county range. Sometimes they are in another part of North Carolina. Sometimes we have even had them from out of state.”

District Attorney Scott Thomas said the computers and software would help authorities identify, investigate and prosecute child sex predators.

“Predators use technology and it helps us as we build strong cases to have the technology to be able to build strong cases and prove those cases in court,” he said. “The ultimate goal is to get a good strong conviction and then a severe sentence and punishment.”

Brown said an estimated 88 to 90 million children use the Internet.

“Lord only knows how many sexual predators there are,” he said. “What these sexual predators do to our children is beyond belief.”

Brown said he realizes not every sexual predator can be caught but the new technology would allow authorities to at least catch some of them.

“Less predators equals less victims,” he said.

Brown said technology that allows for computerized forms of communication is a great benefit to society, but the misuse of it by sexual predators is a down side.

“It’s become a national issue,” he said. “It’s become a blight on our society.”

Brown said that there may be as many as five to 10 victims for each child predator.

“The community needs to hear about it,” Brown said. “A lot of people don’t realize what is happening to kids. Many are being brutally raped and killed. It’s a dangerous, dangerous arena.”