Macomb County, Mich.’s Computer Enforcement, Macomb Area Computer Enforcement(MACE) is targeting child predators on the dark web.
I had no idea there were so many sick people out there who want to prey on children,” Sgt. Pamela McLean, MACE.
McLean goes undercover to catch child predators. Around 80 % of their computer crime cases are child exploitation cases. “The want and desire for seeking out an underage child is so much, they can’t control themselves,” McLean said.
100 % of the people this team brings in are convicted of the crime. MACE arrested 90 % of the pedophiles in Macomb County last year alone.
“Most of our cases plead out in court, the almost all go to prison,” McLean said. “They are all registered sex offenders.”
It can be a dark world. A world where kids are looked at as the most vulnerable. Fox 2 witnessed firsthand as a Macomb County detective demonstrated how easy it was as he fired up an app and pretended to be an underage boy. Within seconds predators are taking the bait, showing just how vulnerable kids are.
“It’s through your computer games now,” McLean said. “Because everyone has online access.”
“Think of Google as the tip of the iceberg. At the tip, it’s easy for police to find the bad guys. Underneath, there is still roughly 90 % of the iceberg. This is what is referred to as the ‘Deep Web’. Even that comes in layers. The ‘Dark Web’ I would consider the bottom of the iceberg,” McLean said to Fox 2 reporters.
“It is the part of the web that like, a terrorist cell would use, you can do weapons, drugs, you can even purchase kids, you can purchase slaves. Anything your imagination could possibly go with, its way at the bottom of the web. It’s there but you need to know how to access it.” McLean told Fox 2.
Once you gain access, all of your traceable information is scrambled.
“Once you get there, all of your traceable information is encrypted, making it difficult to track its users.” McLean noted.
MACE detectives are constantly on the job, keeping up contacts, viewing unspeakable images and it takes a lot out of them. A recent arrest involving a child predator who was also a mother was especially difficult. In those times they lean on each other. McLean and other Detectives involved in MACE has said they have thought about stopping, or resigning from MACE, but with every arrest, they are reminded why they do it.
“If it means we have to say something, or we have to pretend to be somebody, or look at something we wouldn’t do, to know we are preventing a real child from falling victim, it’s worth it to us. Monitor what your children are doing. Know who they are talking to, keep everything locked down.” This is the advice McLean gave to parents, not only in Macomb County, but the rest of the US as well.
MACE has been in operation for approximately 10 years. It is comprised of three criminal investigators, and two forensic investigators. The unit opened 621 cases compared to 563 cases in 2009. This year MACE arrested 32 subjects for various criminal activities and executed 140 search warrants.