It's a disturbing trend, child porn cases are on the rise in the Permian Basin. Agents are working extra hours and a special team has been dedicated to handle child predator cases.
Child solicitation, child pornography and child exploitation, all of these cases have increased in West Texas in the last few years.
"In the Midland/Odessa area, we have had an increase in the number of cases that we have investigated and its not only Midland, Odessa but its also Alpine, Presidio as well," ICE Agent, Jerry Garrett, said.
Homeland Security Investigations or ICE have a specialized team in the area for these cases. It's called Operation Predator. They target child exploitation and sexual crimes. They work together with local, national and international agencies to put these predators behind bars. The increase in our area's population is increasing their caseloads but other factors are also playing a role.
"I think that is mainly due to an increase of awareness in the public. People are seeing things that are suspicious to them and are reporting it to the authorities," Garrett said.
The Internet is also making it easier for predators to find their prey, most teenagers are putting their information on the web making it public.
"For the most part, the Internet is involved in almost every case. It's just such an easy medium for these individuals to exchange images to communicate with each other, that type of thing," Garrett said.
For the longest time, authorities had a hard time catching up with the technology but now it seems that they are up to speed. If you still aren't convinced, there are several cases that law enforcement are currently working on. They are dealing with the production of child porn, enticing a minor and even downloading child porn images.
49-year-old Timothy McKeithan was arrested at the Park at Caldera Apartments in Midland for having child pornography.
Authorities also arrested 25-year-old Paul Michael Revell. Back in 2005, Ravell was convicted of possessing child pornography but he didn't learn his lesson and was arrested again when agents found that he downloaded 100 sexually explicit images of child porn from the Internet.
33-year-old John Brunson from Odessa was charged with producing child pornography. A citizen of Vancouver, Canada, was in a chat room with Brunson. Brunson told him the unthinkable.
"The offender made comments that he was going to engage in activities with his daughter and the other individual that he was conversing with that was in British Columbia was able to see a small child in the background and became concerned with that and reported it," Garrett said.
Brunson was sentenced to 30 years for engaging activities with his three year old daughter.
Those are just some of the cases that authorities have worked in the Basin. ICE could not reveal some of the plans and things they are doing to catch these predators but they said that they are working in Midland and others areas of the country and they are using the technology to their advantage. Not only does ICE have a special team to catch these predators but local law enforcement and even local prosecutors are working extra to put these predators behind bars.
"We will use any method legally available. We will get on the Internet and pose as a twelve thirteen-year-old's or you'll find someone driving around in a park near a school and they are watching children play and stuff like that. These are items that we look for. When we find it, we stop and investigate," Midland County Sheriff, Gary Painter, said.
The DA's office in Odessa even has a special position for sexual assault cases and they make sure they prosecute to the fullest extent.
"We have a had a good success in making sure that people who abuse children sexually pay a very stiff penalty," Ector County District Attorney, Bobby Bland, said.
Authorities want to warn those individuals to watch out because you won't get away with harming an innocent child.
"If they are involved in soliciting child pornography, they better watch out because we will catch them," Painter said.