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Recent incidents prompt community meetings about online predators

<p>File Photo</p>

File Photo

Lake County and Lincolnshire law enforcement officials will have a couple of unnerving examples to share next week when they host a class for parents seeking ways to protect their kids from sexual predators and the dangers of the Internet.

“The Internet, and mobile devices, changed how kids interact with each other, and how they’re getting into trouble,” said Chris Covelli, of the Lake County Sheriff’s Office’s Cyber Crimes Unit.

The educational session, “Understanding the Digital Life of Today’s Youth,” will be put on by Covelli; his wife Kim, a Lincolnshire police officer, and Dean Kharash, who also works in the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Cyber Crimes division. The program starts at 7 p.m. May 27 at Lincolnshire Village Hall, 1 Half Day Road.

Topics of discussion will include sexting, cyber bullying, new ways parents can monitor their kids, and the growing list of digital applications kids are using.

“Stranger-danger type stuff, kids being online talking to kids they don’t know,” Covelli said. “The main thing we’re talking about is the way children can be exploited, lured into situations they weren’t intending to get into.”

For those who cannot attend, Covelli stressed that parents require children to use their devices in their homes’ open areas — not bedrooms or bathrooms.

“There’s no reason that a child can’t be using their mobile device in the living room and the kitchen,” he said. “That’s a red flag, that’s something that parents should be looking into right away. That’s when a lot of these things happen.”

He encouraged parents to take tablets or cell phones out of their children’s bedrooms overnight. Predators’ prime hours are the wee hours, Covelli said.

Parents also should look for sudden swings in a kid’s behavior.

“They very well could be the victim of something like this,” Covelli said.

Last week, a man was arrested at Stevenson High School for allegedly trying to meet a 15-year-old student for sex, Lincolnshire police said.

Emmanuel A. Perez, 25, of the 200 block of Court of Shorewood, Vernon Hills, was taken into custody at 6:15 p.m., when he arrived on the Lincolnshire campus, police said. He was charged with two counts of indecent solicitation of a child, both Class 3 felonies. Police said Perez and the victim had been communicating electronically and planned to meet at the school before officers intervened.

Two weeks ago in Deerfield, officers charged a man with disorderly conduct after he allegedly used his mobile phone to take a picture of a group of eighth-grade girls as they left a hotel pool.

The May 27 presentation will come on the heels of a similar session scheduled for 7 p.m. May 22 at Daniel Wright Junior High, where Melissa Hemzacek of the Attorney General’s High Crimes Division will speak.

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