Five Dickinson County teens involved in sexting incident
Authorities in Dickinson County recently completed a joint investigation involving teen sexting. Investigating agencies included the Iron Mountain Police Department, Kingsford Public Safety Department and Dickinson County Sheriff's Department.
Five juvenile petition requests were submitted to the Dickinson County Prosecutor's Office for review of potential charges. The requested charges include possession of child sexually abusive material, producing child sexually abusive material, enticing a child to produce child sexually abusive material, and/or distributing child sexually abusive material. The five teen suspects, all 15 year old high school students, were interviewed and their cell phones were confiscated.
The investigation revealed the taking and sharing of nude teen photographs, which meet the definition of child sexually abusive material under Michigan law. This and other recent investigations have highlighted the growing problem of teen sexting in our community and across the state.
The investigation revealed the use of cell phone apps such as KeepSafe, which allow teens to conceal this type of content from parents and/or guardians. Applications such as KeepSafe allow the user to create a "fake pin" that when entered, conceals illicit photographs or videos kept inside of the app.
The prosecutors office, along with area law enforcement, would like to inform parents of applications such as KeepSafe and the fact that this is a growing concern among teens in our community.
"We feel that it's our responsibility as a law enforcement community to get this message out and to prevent child pornography from being produced, distributed or possessed."
Members of the law enforcement community have worked closely with school officials in recent months to address this growing problem. A number of student presentations have been conducted by area law enforcement in an effort to educate students about the serious consequences of this behavior. The creation, sharing and/or possession of child pornography are felony offenses, which may include sex offender registration.
The prosecutor's office has chosen to forgo the initiation of criminal charges in this instance, but doesn't take the behavior lightly. "Given that the message is now out, future reports involving allegations of sexting may well result in the filing of criminal proceedings."
Additionally, any contraband (cell phones, tablets, laptops, etc.) seized during these investigations will be disposed of pursuant to law and will not be retuned to the child or to the child's parent or guardian. Finally, the law enforcement community strongly encourages parents to familiarize themselves with these types of apps and to carefully monitor their child's cell phone and internet usage.