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The Daily



10-28-03: Local law enforcement fighting Internet crime


COLDWATER — A new Internet Crime Unit has been set up in Mercer County to fight Internet crimes, particularly the luring and solicitation of children and teens for sexual encounters.
Coldwater Police Chief Gery Thobe told village councilors meeting Monday about the joint effort between the Coldwater Police Department and Mercer County Sheriff’s Department.
The new crime unit made its first arrest on Oct. 14. Philip Blakewell, a truck driver from California, allegedly thought he was meeting a 13-year-old girl on West Bank Road in Celina to have sex after chatting with her on the Internet. But posing on the Internet as the 13-year-old girl was Thobe. The officers lured Blakewell to West Bank Road and made the arrest.
The Internet Crime Unit went on-line in mid-September, after Thobe and Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey underwent three days of training in August at the Xenia Police Department. Thobe said the Coldwater department is the only village department working in this unit with the sheriff’s department.
Thobe told Coldwater councilors what he has encountered involving sexual crimes against minors on the Internet thus far has been “absolutely terrifying.
“It’s amazing what people will do to have sex with a young girl or boy. It doesn’t matter if the adult is a man or woman, they both do it,” Thobe said. “At first I thought, why bring all the perverts here, and then I thought, how do we know they’re not already here.”
The crimes unit operates out of the town hall in Coldwater where approximately eight hours a week are spent by a patrolman with the Coldwater department and a deputy with the sheriff’s department, in addition to Thobe and Grey. The patrolman and deputy will be attending training in December, along with a local assistant prosecutor for the legal part of the training, Grey said.
“Gery and I are spending time with it because of the nature of the type of work, to make sure it gets off the ground correctly and that it is properly supervised,” Grey said.
Manpower from other local agencies may be considered if the unit takes off, Grey said.
“When Gery came to me about the training that was being offered, we just wanted to review the concept of how to set up the program and decide if we really wanted to do it. After going through the training and seeing what is out there, it ended up being a no-brainer. This has to be done,” he said.
The key to preventing these types of crimes is education, Thobe says, and law enforcement will be addressing the issue in area schools.
“We’re also focusing on parents and asking them to monitor their children’s activities,” Grey added. “Many don’t realize where they have been on the Internet and parents have an obligation to know and talk to their kids about it.”
In other action at Monday’s Coldwater council meeting, councilor Al Boos reported he received at least four complaints from residents who are irritated about the excess amount of dog excrement at Memorial Park.
“I’ve had four people in my Ward (4) come to my house and complain that people are not picking up after their dogs. They need to know, along with the dog owners, that there is an ordinance that makes the dog owner responsible,” Boos said.
The ordinance reads, in part, “No person shall deposit or permit to be deposited in an unsanitary manner upon public or private property in the village, any human or animal excrement, garbage or other objectionable waste.”
Residents with “doo doo” complaints may contact the local police department.
Plans are progressing on the village’s new water treatment plant going in the old AGCO training facility, environmental committee chairman Tom James said in his report to council. Cost estimates will be determined by the end of the year.
The committee also reviewed rates for sewer, water and storm. Changes in the water and sanitary sewer tap-in fees for new users are forthcoming.
In his finance committee report, chairman Woody Wolters noted discussion was held on the positions and duties of village employees, as well as employee pay scale and pay range.
Council’s transportation committee, after much discussion, is proposing to widen the village’s East Plum Street by two feet, reported committee chairman Al Boos. Also, the committee reviewed letters sent to residents that will be affected by street repairs next year along East Plum, East Elizabeth, South First and North Sixth streets.
In other action, council:
• Approved the transfers of a total of $101,000 from the village’s special assessment fund, permissive tax fund, general fund and sidewalk project fund to the street department. All the money is earmarked for the East Main Street project that was completed earlier this year, noted Village Manager-Engineer Eric Thomas.
• Slated a finance committee meeting for Nov. 7 at 8 a.m. in the village hall council chambers.


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