On Thursday and Friday, detectives from several local law enforcement agencies worked together to catch 8 men who they say were trying to meet with children for sex.
Five of the men were from Eau Claire, and was one from Bloomer, Wausau, and Menomonie: Cory Wilcock, Dale L. Zingshiem, Denton Jerome, Griffin Waldinger, Isaiah Hart, Jacob Pfenning-Wendt, Matthew Burgess, and Michael Lancette.
Child Safe Operation, the two-day project, included six local law enforcement agencies that included 8 different undercover chatters that helped to find and arrest these men.
"These chatters would post fictitious postings on Craigslist, utilize applications such as Whisper and Grinder to lure in these child predators,” Lieutenant Detective Derek Thomas with the Eau Claire Police Department told WEAU. “Once they get them lured in, they set up a meet-location with that person and take them into custody."
The detectives used the Chippewa Valley Regional Forensic Lab to chat and set up meetings with the men arrested.
"We are constantly monitoring social media websites, Craigslist, and other applications that are out there and going after these child predators," Thomas said.
In only two days, the agencies caught eight men. Thomas says this is the second operation like this over the last three years.
"It's something that we take very seriously,” Thomas says. “It's a continued investigation and will always be a continued investigation. We're never going to stop utilizing all the resources we have available to go after these child predators."
Officials from the Eau Claire Police Department say if you do have younger kids, even throughout their teenage years, it's vital to have a trusting relationship with them in order for them to be open about having conversations about this type of issue.
"I think it's important that parents talk to their kids, understand the applications that they have, understand the social media websites that they are on so they are cognizant of those that are hiding behind a computer screen that may be a predator," Thomas said.
Thomas wouldn't tell us where the meeting spots were in order to keep them confidential.
In a separate case just this afternoon, another man was arrested in Eau Claire trying to solicit sex from a child; that makes it nine cases in the Chippewa Valley in just the last five days.
EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (RELEASE) -- Law enforcement agencies in the Chippewa Valley are working together to combat the sexual exploitation of children. Members of the Eau Claire Police Department, Eau Claire County Sheriff’s Office, Altoona Police Department, Chippewa Falls Police Department, Menomonie Police Department, and Wisconsin Department of Justice – Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI) recognize this is a regional issue that is best addressed collaboratively.
As part of this effort, on Thursday February 4, 2016 and Friday February 5, 2016 law enforcement officers from these agencies, in conjunction with the Chippewa Valley Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory, conducted an undercover operation that resulted in the arrest of eight individuals. Investigators posted online advertisements for underage children either looking for sex or as an adult who was looking to traffic or sell a child for sex. Additionally, investigators utilized mobile device applications to identify individuals who intend to engage in sexual contact with children.
Investigators received multiple responses which included e-mails, text messages, or telephone communication from the suspects. The communication resulted in the suspects requesting to meet for sex at a pre-designated location in the Chippewa Valley. The undercover officers met with the suspects and took them into custody. Investigators received many responses to their ads and spent considerable time communicating to a multitude of potential suspects.
Child exploitation is a serious issue that requires a coordinated response. Emerging technology is used to commit these crimes and individuals who mean to do children harm are not bound by jurisdictional boundaries. The members of the involved law enforcement agencies are fully committed to working together and keeping up with these trends. The Wisconsin Department of Justice - Division of Criminal Investigations is an important partner in this ongoing effort.
Eau Claire County Undersheriff Dan Bresina said, “Today's technological world provides many useful tools for our youth; however the misuse of the internet to prey on them is a serious problem requiring families, communities and allocation of resources by law enforcement to protect them. Information in the hands of involved parents is the greatest way to combat these threats and protect our youth.”
According to Eau Claire Police Deputy Chief Matt Rokus, “We put a priority on protecting the safety of everyone in our community. We will never relent in our efforts to seek out those who threaten to victimize our community’s children.” Deputy Chief Matt Rokus is the Advisory Board Chairman for the Chippewa Valley Regional Computer Forensics Lab.
The member agencies of the Chippewa Valley Regional Computer Forensic Laboratory include the Eau Claire Police Department, the Altoona Police Department, and the Eau Claire County Sheriff’s Office. Because of this partnership our agencies are able to bring together many resources in order to keep up with the technology that is used to facilitate criminal activity and ensure a safer community.
Great work guys, keep it up.