April Is Child Abuse Prevention Month in Missouri

​From Gov. Mike Parson ~

As a former law enforcement officer, I understand the devastating impact abuse and neglect can have on a child’s life. It is critical that we continue to raise awareness about child abuse prevention and remind Missourians that children are relying on us to protect them.

I also want to thank the many groups and organizations across the state that provide vital resources to families throughout the year to help keep our children safe.

The Missouri Department of Social Services asks Missourians to be especially attentive to the safety and wellbeing of children during COVID-19 and strongly encourages anyone who suspects child abuse or neglect to call the toll-free hotline at 1-800-392-3738.

The Missouri Child Abuse and Neglect Hotline is answered 24-hours a day, every day, all year round. Callers can report anonymously.

Reporting a concern about a child can connect a family with the support and help they need to keep the child safe at home. Ensuring parents and caregivers have the knowledge, skills, support, and resources they need to care for children are paramount to reducing the risk of child abuse and neglect.

Often, the efforts of local communities and organizations make it possible for families to become stronger and the home safer for the child.​​

New App Detects Fake Missouri IDs

The Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control announced this week it has partnered with the MoDOT Highway Safety and Traffic Division, to launch a free app to aid retail employees and other users in verifying the authenticity of IDs simply by scanning the ID with the camera on a mobile phone or tablet. The “Show-Me ID” app became available to all Missourians on Thursday, April 1.

“Underage drinking is a danger to Missouri’s young people and others on the road, and the new Show-Me ID app makes it easier than ever for all those who sell alcohol to verify the authenticity of any state-issued identification to aid in the prevention of alcohol being sold to minors,” said Dottie Taylor, state supervisor of the Division of Alcohol and Tobacco Control. “While this is in no way a replacement for the physical checking of an ID and comparison to the person providing it, it is certainly another powerful tool to aid retail employees. While there are other apps available and none that are fool-proof, this is the best that we have used.”

The app can be found in the Apple App Store and Google Play. Users search for it by typing “Show-Me ID” in their search once they have opened their app store.

Taylor said Show-Me ID automatically signals the user when a scanned ID is fraudulent. The app includes a calendar feature to alert whether the bearer of a legitimate ID is of legal age to purchase alcohol or tobacco products. There is also a guide on the app that reminds the user of the proper steps for checking whether the ID is valid and the prospective purchaser is of legal age. The Show-Me ID app does not store the information from IDs it has scanned.

“Underage drinking is dangerous in and of itself, but coupled with driving it can be dea​​dly,” said Jon Nelson, MoDOT assistant to the state highway safety and traffic engineer. “By preventing underage purchases of alcohol, we can potentially save lives not only of our youth but also other users of Missouri’s roadways.”

Alcohol is the most commonly used substance among young people in the U.S., according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The agency says excessive drinking is responsible for more than 3,500 deaths among people under age 21 and more than 100,000 emergency room visits by persons aged 12 to 21 for injuries and other conditions linked to alcohol.

Story by Lake Expo | lakeexpo.com

Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office Teaches Dangers of Social Media

​During the class, “fidgets” were on the tables hoping it would stimulate brain activity and class participation.​

 

Last week, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office participated in a lesson plan about bullying, cyberbullying and sexting with ninth graders at the Montgomery County High School. The focus for our office was to inform the students of the legal ramifications of related crimes for juveniles and adults.

A social media scavenger hunt was conducted to give us insight on exactly how active our young adults are online. It was a frank conversation, in a safe environment. The students were very forthright about their feelings, outlooks, and opinions concerning these topics. We were impressed with their maturity and the openness displayed by the kids.

The survey showed the average Montgomery County High School freshman is on three to six different social networks; two students were on 11 – the highest number. The majority of students are active – meaning they’re on at least once a week – on one to four networks.

The following is a list of the networks, with the number of students reporting to having accounts:

  • Snapchat – 56
  • Instagram – 48
  • TikTok – 39
  • YouTube – 22
  • Facebook – 18
  • Pinterest – 9
  • Twitter – 8
  • Discord – 4
  • Twitch – 2
  • What’s App – 2
  • Amino, Google, LGBTQ, Shein, and Wave each had 1 student.

The students averaged between 100 and 200 friends on their favorite network. Six students reported having 1,000 or more friends and one reported to having 6,702.

Here’s the interesting part. Out of 74 students, only 22 said they knew every one of their social network friends. Stating the obvious, the higher the number of friends, the less likely the student was to know everyone on their social media account. Yet despite this, they are all aware that the profile of the “friend” they do not know, in all probability, is nothing what the friend claims to be. BUT THEY ACCEPT THEM ANYWAY!

All but 2 students understood that just because something is deleted from a Facebook page, it does not mean it is permanently deleted from the internet.

Of the 74 students participating, 71 said they have witnessed online bullying behavior, and 42 of those students said they have seen online bullying on a daily occurrence while 22 said they seldom witness online bullying. Of those 22, most gave the reasons that they either don’t communicate on their social media accounts or are very selective about their online friends.

When the students were asked if they thought social media was a good thing, 27 felt it was both good and bad. This depended on the factors of who was online, why they were online, and how they utilized it.

Students who felt social media was a good thing, cited reasons like communicating with friends or family that live far away, getting encouragement from others, sharing information and it gave them something to do.

Those who felt it is bad, for the most part, commented on the negativity. There were several students who were very articulate stating:

“Harassment is so prevalent.”

“It’s dangerous because it can lead to suicide.”

“You don’t always know who you’re communicating with.”

Students said they felt people bully online because of jealousy, insecurity, wanting attention, having nothing to do, gamer rage, expressing themselves, people are braver online, low self-esteem, people like to cause drama, or they want to escalate an argument.

Several students provided more profound answers:

“It is a person’s instinct to survive being abuse.”

“There’s pressure to be the best, so they put others down.”

“It’s becoming more often because people have become more sensitive.”

“There isn’t more bullying online, there’s just more hate in society.”

When the students were asked if they felt boys or girls were worse about online bullying, 33 said they felt girls were, and no – those 33 were not all boys. It was actually just the opposite. More females felt girls were worse. The males’ answers to this question were a little more vocal. The reality is that girls are slightly worse about online bullying, however boys are more likely to post a hurtful photo.

What can teachers and parents do to help children navigate the wild, wild, west called the internet? The kids’ suggestions were to monitor activity, block sites, and confiscate electronic devices if privileges were abused. They also said they felt parents and teachers should report to social media authorities, educate their children about online communications, teach children to be more compassionate, stress the importance of the consequences of their actions, talk to them and try to understand. Many said that nothing can be done.

Interestingly, 44 of  the students believe parents don’t know everything their child is doing online because, depending on the age of the parent, most parents did not grow up with social media. Quite a few felt the parents didn’t care or intentionally didn’t want to know.

So, what are some ways parents can guide their soon to be young adults regarding social media?

  1. Familiarize yourself with the state law on bullying and cyberbullying. Know the difference between bullying and when someone is just being unkind. Recognize, this is not a criminal statute, but a statute regarding school district policy.
    160.775. Antibullying policy required — definition — content, requirements. — 1. Every district shall adopt an antibullying policy by September 1, 2007.
  2.  “Bullying” means intimidation, unwanted aggressive behavior, or harassment that is repetitive or is substantially likely to be repeated and causes a reasonable student to fear for his or her physical safety or property; substantially interferes with the educational performance, opportunities, or benefits of any student without exception; or substantially disrupts the orderly operation of the school. Bullying may consist of physical actions, including gestures, or oral, cyberbullying, electronic, or written communication, and any threat of retaliation for reporting of such acts. Bullying of students is prohibited on school property, at any school function, or on a school bus. “Cyberbullying” means bullying as defined in this subsection through the transmission of a communication including, but not limited to, a message, text, sound, or image by means of an electronic device including, but not limited to, a telephone, wireless telephone, or other wireless communication device, computer, or pager.
  3. Search your school website menu for the online bully reporting option.
  4. Monitor your child’s internet activity.
  5. Provide a safe, non- judgmental atmosphere for your child to talk about online communications.
  6. Teach your child the importance of communicating safely with people they know.
  7. Teach your child to disengage from conversations online that are of an unkind nature or are sexually suggestive.
  8. If harassment continues or there is enticement, document the date, time, and content of incidents. Screen shot or print out bullying comments. If obscene materials are found on your child’s electronic devices, wrap the device in aluminum foil, if it is necessary for reporting to law enforcement.

We learned a lot from the kids and hopefully, they in turn learned something from us. We look forward to having more opportunities in the future to pick their wonderful, insightful, introspective minds and continue the dialogue.

We’d like to thank School Counselor Keri Poehlman, Science Department Teacher Matthew Skroblus, and the Montgomery High School faculty for making us feel welcome. (Btw, Mrs. Garrett’s cinnamon rolls are to die for!)

In the near future, the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office will have an App for hotline numbers regarding these issues. Until then, please contact the office or submit a question on the website, if assistance is needed or for more information.

About Missouri’s AMBER Alert Program

The Mission
The mission of the AMBER Alert Program is to develop and coordinate the efforts of law enforcement, the media, and transportation in order to increase public participation in safely recovering abducted children through targeted education, increased communication, and effective sharing of resources.
 
Overview

The State of Missouri AMBER Alert Plan is based upon guidelines established by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) in the summer of 2001. On August 28, 2003, Section 210.1012 RSMO established a statewide program called the “Amber Alert System.” The intent of the Missouri AMBER Alert is to generate a timely alert to a large number of people and to recruit the eyes and ears of these citizens to facilitate the safe return of abducted children. AMBER Alerts in Missouri are handled under the auspices of the Alert Missouri. The success of the system is dependent on the participation of commercial broadcasters, the Missouri Department of Transportation, and other volunteer alert providers. At the request of the Missouri Broadcaster’s Association, the Missouri Highway Patrol became an EAS originator in order to enhance Missouri’s implementation of the EAS system.
 
Disclaimer

The responsibility for the activation of an AMBER Alert rests solely with the law enforcement agency having jurisdiction in the case. Nothing contained herein shall be construed as a requirement for law enforcement to activate an alert, nor to infringe upon the discretion of a broadcaster concerning the broadcast of an alert.
 
AMBER Alert Activation Criteria

In order for an AMBER Alert to be forwarded for dissemination via the Alert Missouri program the following criteria must be met:
 
  • Law enforcement officials have a reasonable belief that an abduction has occurred, which meets the definition in RSMo. 565.110 or 565.115
  • Law enforcement officials believe there is a credible threat of serious bodily injury or death.
  • Enough descriptive information exists about the victim and the abductor for law enforcement to issue an AMBER Alert.
  • The victim of the abduction is a child age 17 years or younger.
  • The child’s name and other critical data elements – including the child abduction (CA) flag – have been entered into the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) system.
  • Note: Parental disputes do not apply unless a possibility of harm to the child has been determined. Missouri AMBER Alert activation should not be requested for events not meeting the criteria listed above. Events not meeting these criteria may be addressed through the Missouri Uniform Law Enforcement System and National Crime Information Center entries, assistance from national (NCMEC) and state (Missouri State Highway Patrol) entities and standard press releases.


Law Enforcement

A report must be taken and validated by a law enforcement agency. (Section 210.1012 of the RSMO provides that the person who knowingly making a false report which triggers an alert pursuant to that section is guilty of a class A misdemeanor.) The AMBER Alert request needs to be timely. Elapsed time from the incident directly diminishes the usefulness of an alert.

Activation

Trained local law enforcement personnel in the community where the abduction occurred must first determine if all the activation criteria are met.

If so, the local agency should contact the Missouri State Highway Patrol Troop F Headquarters at 573-751-1000 and request an AMBER Alert. Troop F Communications will contact the state AMBER Alert coordinator or their designee and initiate a conference call between the local agency, Troop F Communications, and the coordinator or designee. After a brief discussion regarding the abduction and each criteria section, the coordinator or designee will make the decision whether the situation rises to the level of an AMBER Alert. If the decision is made to activate the AMBER Alert system, Troop F Communications will take the abduction information over the telephone from the local agency and initiate the alert process.

If not already completed, the local agency must initiate a Missing Person computer entry in MULES as required in the National Child Search Act (42 U.S.C. 5779, 5780).

The local agency should also fill out the AMBER Alert request form in MULES 5 (type AMBER in the command line). This form sends a message via MULES to Troop F Communications to notify them of the pending AMBER Alert request. If the agency needs assistance filling out the AMBER form, Troop F Communications can assist the agency.

If the local agency does not have access to the AMBER Alert request form in MULES 5, complete a Missouri AMBER Alert Abduction Form found on the Missouri State Highway Patrol website under “Missing Persons” at the top of the page. This form can be emailed to moalerts@mshp.dps.mo.gov or faxed to the Missouri State Highway Patrol Troop F Headquarters at 573-751-6814. Contact Troop F Communications at 573-751-1000 to verify the email/fax was received. Once approved, Troop F Communications will disseminate the alert.

If the coordinator or designee doesn’t feel the situation rises to the level of an AMBER Alert, other options can be explored.

Broadcast

During the first two hours after the initial broadcast of an AMBER Alert, stations are urged to give follow-up announcements at least every 15 minutes. Follow-up announcements should not, under normal circumstances, be a retransmission of the initial AMBER EAS message.

During the second two hours stations that are live on-air are urged to broadcast follow-up announcements at least once every half-hour.

After four hours the station may, at its discretion, continue to broadcast follow-up announcements once per hour for twenty hours.

Missouri Law Enforcement Explain Why No AMBER Alert Was Issued for Missing Father, 2 Sons

Many people across Missouri have wondered why no AMBER Alert was issued for a missing Pleasant Hope father and his two sons.

Darrell Peak and his two young boys, Mayson and Kaiden, were found dead near Warsaw on Monday.

Missouri State Highway Patrol says the case did not meet certain criteria. While no one with the MSHP headquarters would do a camera interview with KY3, the agency issued a statement instead.

“The Missouri State Highway Patrol issued a state-wide Endangered Person Advisory for Darrell Peak, Kaiden Peak, and Mayson Peak,” the statement read. “This advisory informed the media, the public, and law enforcement agencies across the state of the situation involving the Peak family. An AMBER Alert was not issued, as the statutory requirements for the activation of an AMBER Alert were not met.”​​

It was 16 hours after Darrell Peak left his home on Thursday when authorities were notified to be on the lookout.

“Any and every lead that is coming in we’re following,” Greene County Deputy Jason Winston told KY3 prior to the discovery. “We’re exhausting this investigation in every way we know how.”

The Greene County Sheriff’s Office said it asked several times for an amber alert to be issued.

Requirements for issuing an Amber Alert include timely requests, as more time goes by, the usefulness of an alert diminishes. Alert requirements also note parental disputes do not apply unless there is concern that a child could be harmed.

Some wonder why Peak’s history of depression and suicidal thoughts did not merit an AMBER Alert.

”My understanding is the family, the wife or a family member, went on the air and said he would never hurt his children,” Benton County Sheriff Eric Knox said. “My mindset is the family didn’t think he would ever do something like that, therefore it doesn’t meet the criteria.”

Would that have changed if authorities feared Peak could hurt his two sons?

”Yes, I believe it would have,” Knox said. “Again I cannot speak for their people, but if you meet all the criteria of the AMBER Alert there is no reason they couldn’t do one.”

The Greene County Sheriff’s Office previously told KY3 about their AMBER Alert attempts.

”We would definitely like for this issue to meet the criteria for an AMBER Alert, but at the same time we realize criteria is in place for a reason,” Winston said.

After this case, Sheriff Knox said many have asked him if the AMBER Alert system should be changed.

“My statement to that would be no,” he said. “The AMBER Alert is set up with criteria that is fairly stringent to keep that very serious when an amber alert goes off.”

Knox fears a change could lead to people ignoring alerts.

”Something we see day in and day out is people fighting, take off with the kids,” he said. “Happens all the time. I think everybody did exactly what they could do with the information they had. If you set off an AMBER Alert for every husband and wife that had an argument and walked away with the kids, people would ignore it. It would be a nuisance instead of something serious.”

Knox said he feels this case does draw attention to the need for more mental health outreach efforts at the state level.

“Society lets these people down,” he said. “We do not have the proper mechanisms in place to deal with mental illness anymore. And at the state level I think there needs to be help for mental illness.”

By Michael Van Schoik | KY3​

DEA and Discovery Education Launch Expansion of Operation Prevention

Unsplash Photo by Scott Webb.

The Drug Enforcement Administration and Discovery Education have expanded Operation Prevention, a joint effort to curb drug use among students by educating them about the dangers of abuse. In response to growing demand, new modules launched last night build on the original student curriculum, which is geared toward elementary and middle schools students. These new lessons educate young people about the effects of a wider range of drugs and pharmaceuticals on the human body.

Operation Prevention will host a webinar for educators on October 14 to review the existing curriculum, and showcase the new multi-drug curriculum with a video topic series and activities for grades 3-8, and tips for implementing them within the existing Operation Prevention resources. Educators can register here.

“The first line in prevention is always education,” said Acting Administrator Timothy J. Shea. “By reaching out to youths, presenting them with information to expand their base of knowledge about drugs and drug abuse, we can stem the future tide of misuse, abuse, overdose, and death. If we reach just one child and prevent even one death through this program, we will consider it a success.”

DEA and Discovery Education launched Operation Prevention in 2016 as a three year program for middle and high school students with lessons centered on the dangers of opioid prescription drug abuse. The DEA-funded program was soon expanded to add elementary and Spanish-speaking students. A second expansion added a workplace module to allow businesses to access this important information. The program continues to evolve with a module for Native American/Alaskan Natives in the planning stages.

Sting Targeting Child Predators Will Set Precedent

Truckers Against Predators’ exposures lead to two arrests in Missouri.(KY3)


The Shannon County Sheriff’s Office has announced another arrest in a coordinated sting targeting child predators.

At least three men accused of targeting children for sex have been arrested since August. Martin Kester, 34, of West Plains was arrested Thursday for attempting to meet for sex with a 13-year-old girl in Eminence, the sheriff’s office announced Sunday.

Authorities say two others were previously busted after a group of truckers pretended to be young girls online, and set up a meeting. The group, Truckers Against Predators, exposed the men on Facebook live for more than 100,000 followers.

According to the sheriff’s office, Kester communicated with a person who portrayed themselves as a teenage girl, but was involved with Truckers Against Predators (TAP). A Shannon County deputy joined the conversation undercover.

The sheriff’s office says Kester intended to meet a teenage girl after he left work on Thursday, Sept. 10. Upon arrival to a destination, Kester was confronted by a T.A.P. crew frontman in a live stream video.

Kester was taken into custody and sent to Shannon County Jail, according to the sheriff’s office. He is being held on a $50,000 cash bond and was charged for felony enticement of a child.

Authorities have also​​ confirmed the arrests of Jefferson Rippe, a Springfield man, and Richard Holford, a Birch Tree man, in the sting. Shannon County Sheriff Darrin Brawley believes the charges will hold up in court, and the trials against both men will set precedents for the state.

Sheriff Brawley says his smaller department doesn’t have the manpower or resources to coordinate these efforts and he’s grateful for the effort of Truckers Against Predators. The group hopes to work with more agencies in the future to expose more pedophiles, collect convictions and ultimately, make Missouri a safer state.

 
 
​KY3 Staff​