Demopolis juvenile arrested in internet harassment case

The Demopolis Police Department has arrested a minor in conjunction with an investigation into an internet-based crime.

The DPD’s Criminal Investigations Division recently completed its work on a case in which the arrested minor is alleged to have utilized social media sites to create false identities with the intent to harass and annoy several area youth.

“The biggest part is to kind of track the information and to make sure that the information is accurate. Time does play a factor in these types of investigations. You have to take your time and be careful with the handling of such a sensitive case,” Demopolis Police Department Chief Tommie Reese said of the difficulty of conducting investigations of this nature.

The incident is the latest in a growing trend of what has been termed “cyber bullying.” Reese contrasted the culture created by this trend with that which previous generations experienced during their school days.

“Now kids take it a little bit further than we did back in the day. They don’t cut it off,” Reese said, noting that the constant barrage of social media and internet access via wireless devices makes it more difficult for some students to unplug from uncomfortable situations they historically would face only during school hours. “Cyber bullying can happen 24 hours a day. There’s not a cutoff. It doesn’t just happen at school, it can happen anywhere that there is social media, technology, anything like that.”

The juvenile arrested in the case faces the charge of Harassing Communications and prosecution for the case will be forwarded to the Marengo County Juvenile Probation Office.

According to the criminal code in Alabama, Harassing Communications occurs when one individual “intends to harass, annoy or alarm another person” and could manifest itself in abusive or obscene language through the mediums of “telephone, telegraph or other electronic or written communications.”

As sites such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, KIK and Vine persist and other social media sites rise to popularity, connectivity has never been more constant. Those conditions, in the estimation of law enforcement and other experts, make it more important than ever for parents to monitor what their children are doing on the internet. Reese said that level of involvement is the first step in preventing such cases.

“Be aware of what your kids are doing on computers and online. Establish rules about technology use. Understand what the school rules are about bullying. They can affect you and also the school,” Reese said. “Intervention is a big part. As children, we would have our differences and we would work it out ourselves. Nowadays kids sometimes need to have an adult to intervene and, hopefully, help squash it so they can understand the consequences of their actions.”

For parents who believe their students may be the victim of such harassment, Reese encourages the use of resources already present within the school system.

“There are SROs assigned to the school. There are principals at the school. There are counselors at the school. Tell a teacher what is going on with you,” Reese said. “Maybe it can be handled there before it gets to us.”