Sexting is considered to be a growing trend among teens across the country, but one Vermont community is taking action.
Law enforcement in Bristol report an uptick in sexting cases which has spurred a county-wide response.
‘Sexting’ refers to sending a nude or explicit image via text. Law enforcement say it’s the first step of a much larger problem.
“What they think is an innocent picture to a friend, then gets transferred from that friend to their friend and gets transferred to other friends,” said Josh Otey, Bristol Police Officer and Vermont Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
Often times these pictures end up on website and become accessible to millions, including predators.
Otey said, “It becomes a resource for them to obtain child pornography relatively easily.”
Otey says sexting can also lead to extortion attempts.
“It’s really added kind of an element to the bullying something with the cyber stuff with Facebook and the different applications,” explained Otey.
Addison County officials reported several cases working through the court system right now. It’s why the Bristol Police Department and the county are teaming up.
“We are combining forces kind of across the state… We are involving other agencies like women’s safe, DCF, CSAC and we are looking for ways to get it into the schools,” said Pierre Cotton, Addison County Restorative Justice Coordinator.
Together they are creating an outreach program to prevent the trend from growing in Addison County. The program will be based largely on educating both teens and parents on sexting.
Cotton said, “Most parents don’t want to look at their kids devices… Like cell phones, iPads and things like that and I think parents need to have conversations about sexting and the laws.”
Otey says his goal is to reduce the amount of cases coming across his desk.
“I much rather get out in public and get ahead of it and try to work with the schools, students and parents,” said Otey.
In the state of Vermont, if a minor is caught sending or receiving explicit images, he or she will be charged as a juvenile and will be sent to a diversion program.