ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Detectives at the Orange County Sheriff’s Office said when an 11-year-old was abducted Saturday, their first priority was to locate and bring the girl home.
Now that she’s safe, they said the investigation is ongoing into how she and the suspect were communicating and what transpired during the trip. This being an example of the real dangers of social media.
Cpl. Nikki Harper is part of the sex crimes unit and was involved in Saturday’s Amber alert investigation. She said the family involved did everything right.
“They were monitoring her interactions on social media and on the internet, yet unfortunately this predator still found a way to make contact with her. They did everything they should have done but it still happened,” Harper said. “It should be a horrifying reminder of what can happen to your children.”
According to the arrest report, 26-year-old Keith Greene Jr. was communicating with the child on Instagram, instructing her to pack bags without any identifying information such as name, initials or monograms. In the report, Greene tells the girl they would lay low for six or seven years. The girl’s mother says the messages were deleted before deputies arrived.
“Social media right now is a big hub for predators to contact children. Especially vulnerable children,” Harper said. “The majority of the kids tend to be maybe having problems at school, problems with friends or family and they’re trying to reach out for help. That’s what these predator' zone in on, that’s their way in: ‘I’m here for you.’”
Harper said in some cases, the conversations progress to sending photos, videos and even meeting in person. That’s why she said it’s important for parents to be aware of their child’s social media activity by following these tips:
- Know the passwords to log on to your child’s devices: “Look for changes in their behavior, especially if they’ve become more secretive with their devices and what they’re doing online, it’s definitely a red flag... If they’re obtaining money somehow by unknown means, that’s a red flag as well,” Harper said.
- Check the browser history: This could be a great resource to find out what websites your children are visiting.
- Be aware of the people they are communicating with online: Do they know who they are communicating with? What are they talking about online?
- Talk to your child about the dangers of social media activity: “The most important thing to do is have a conversation about the dangers out there and that they’re very real, as this circumstance showed us,” Harper said.
- Know who your children hang out with and who their friends are: Harper said during investigations into missing children, they ask their parents who their close friends are. Their child may have spoken to their friends about who they communicate with online or where they might be. “Sometimes they don’t know. I think it’s a very good idea to know who your children are socializing with because they can also be a good source of information,” Harper said.
- Add parental controls on devices that connect to the internet: There are many applications and parental control features on just about any device. This may be a good route to keep your children from logging into websites you don’t want them on without parental supervision.
Greene is still in the Santa Rosa County Jail facing charges including kidnapping and luring or enticing a child. No word yet on when he will be extradited to Orange County.