Computer enforcement team targets 'dark web' predators

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Predators and pedophiles could be sneaking into your home targeting your children while they hide behind a computer screen. But there's a local law enforcement team dedicated to catching these criminals before it’s too late.

If you turn over stones in cyberspace be prepared for what you'll find.  

"I had no idea there were so many sick people out there who want to prey on children," Sgt. Pamela McLean, Macomb Area Computer Enforcement.

McLean goes undercover to catch child predators. Roughly 80 percent of their computer crime cases revolve around child exploitation.

"The want and desire for seeking out an underage child is so much, they can't control themselves," she said.

One-hundred percent of the people this team brings in are convicted of their crime. Macomb Area Computer Enforcement or MACE, arrested 90 pedophiles in Macomb County last year alone.

"Most of our cases plead out in court, they almost all go to prison," McLean said. "They are all registered sex offenders."
It can be a dark world a world where kids are the most vulnerable.  FOX 2 witnessed first-hand as a detective fired up an app, pretending to be an underage boy and 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 or Yahoo as the tip of the iceberg, here it's relatively easy for police to find the bad guys.

"Underneath that waterline is 90 percent of the iceberg," McLean said. "That is the 'deep web' and that comes in different layers. The 'dark web' I would consider the bottom of the iceberg."

The dark web is accessed with different browsers than the ones typically used by law abiding citizens. If you find your way in - you find out why it's called the dark web.

"(It is) the part of the web that like, a terrorist cell would use," she said. "You can do weapons, drugs. You can 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."

Crack the code however and encryption makes it hard to find out who is doing what.

"Once you get there all your traceable information is scrambled," McLean said.

MACE detectives are constantly on the job, keeping up relationships, viewing unspeakable images and it takes a toll.

A recent arrest involving a child predator who happens to be a mom was especially difficult.  In those times they lean on each other.

And with each arrest, they are reminded why they are doing 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," she said. "It's worth it to us."

For parents out there the best advice is to stay out of the dark.

"Monitor what they are doing," McLean said. "Know who they are talking to, keep everything locked down."