Battling Internet criminals who prowl for children online gets tougher all the time.

Battling Internet criminals who prowl for children online gets tougher all the time.

The Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, however, hopes to have an answer for that. On Wednesday, Sheriff Mike Sharp and his deputies rolled out what they hope will be an effective tool in assisting Jackson County parents to monitor what their children are doing online.

“Children make up about 20 percent of our population,” Sharp said Wednesday morning in Blue Springs. “But they make up 100 percent of our future.”

An estimated one out of five kids have received a sexual solicitation online, and one out of 33 kids have been aggressively solicited, according to police. Those are numbers, police said, that have necessitated such programs like the one unveiled Wednesday.

Using money generated by drug seizure funds, the ComputerCOP software program is now available for free to county residents. About 5,000 units are available. It’s the first time local parents have had free access to such technology.

The software is the only parental monitoring software recognized by National Center for Missing and Exploited Children

Only Greene County in Missouri also offers such technology for free, according to Sharp. Once installed, the software captures and saves full text from online chat rooms, emails and instant messages. The software also checks for and highlights sexually explicit words, pictures and language promoting drug use.

Should a child try to erase the information, the software will report on the information that was erased.

Sharp said about 200 agencies throughout the nation offer the software. For Jackson County law enforcement, there was no one specific case that prompted them to acquire the software.

“But we do receive regular complaints about online predators,” Sharp said.

David Lamken, director of public safety at the Independence School District, said he plans on passing out the software information to several school groups, which includes the Parent Teacher Association.

Lamken said many problems in the schools begin at home and find their way to school.

“I’d say 90 percent of our problems start off campus with sites like Facebook,” he said following the presentation.

The software also helps detect cyber bullying, police said.

Stacey Weir, a Blue Springs School District resource officer who is assigned to Valley View High School, said she plans to promote the software heavily – if only because she has three children in the school system. Like Lamken, Weir said many of the problems kids bring with them to school start on sites like Facebook.

“Sites like those are a big problem,” said Weir, who’s been the resource officer at the high school for three years.

Sharp said the software isn’t designed to trick students; he said he wants parents to tell their children that the software has been installed on the computer.

“We want parents talking to their children,” he said.

In addition to the software, Sharp said parents need to exercise other safeguards, including regular dialogue with children about Internet prowlers and placing any computers in heavily traveled areas in the house.

Sharp emphasized that parents contact police if they think they’ve received inappropriate images rather than sending the images to them.

“We don’t want parents or anyone sending those kinds of emails to us,” Sharp said. “Someone from the Sheriff’s Office will come and look at the computer.”

Groups like PTAs can contact the Sheriff’s Office and have a demonstration given to them about how to use the software, Sharp said. Those interested in getting a copy should call the Sheriff’s Community Resource Unit at 816-524-4302.