Top local law enforcement officials told more than 400 attendees at last week’s day-long Cyber Crime Prevention Symposium in Los Angeles that everyone has a role to play in preventing online crime — including millions of minors using the Internet.“Together we can combat this crime and make sure that no one is harmed as a result of predators that we can’t see,” said Jackie Lacey, Los Angeles County District Attorney, in a welcome video that also featured Archbishop José Gomez. The fifth annual symposium sponsored by L.A. County’s Inter-Agency Council on Child Abuse and Neglect along with numerous law enforcement agencies, child advocacy groups and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles drew a capacity crowd of students, parents and educators to the California Endowment Nov. 8 to hear ways to report and prevent such online crimes as cyber bullying, identity theft and sextortion.“The Internet can be a wonderful tool for learning and to stay connected with friends and family, but there are also people who use the Internet for purposes that may not be good or safe,” said Archbishop Gomez.Following the video presentation, Mike Feuer, Los Angeles City Attorney, spoke poignantly about the recent case of a young girl in another state who killed herself because she had been bullied relentlessly online.“When you see or hear about one of your friends who is using the Internet bullying another one of your friends, you need to stand up and say something,” Feuer told the middle school and high school students in the assembly. “You need to talk to a parent [or] to an adult at school, because we all have to recognize that the topic today requires sharing responsibility.”Acknowledging the difficulty of keeping children safe in their homes when they are being stalked by an online predator, LAPD Chief Charlie Beck commented: “Our black and white cars go a lot of places, but this is one place they do not go.“The best way we can keep you safe is to talk about how you can keep yourself safe,” said Beck, noting that audience members were “immensely more likely” to be a victim of cyber crime than a victim of a violent crime or a property crime.“What you can do is exactly what we tell you to do regarding other crimes: you can harden the target,” added the police chief. “You can make yourself much more difficult to be accessed. …We live to keep you safe. Help us do what we want to do. I would like nothing better than to have nobody in this room be a victim of cyber crime. Today, if you listen, you can make that dream come true.”In one of the subsequent breakout sessions for middle school youth, “Social Media and Internet Dangers,” presenter Mary Ellen Smith, an FBI special agent with the Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement (SAFE) Team, described how adolescents are especially vulnerable to online predators seeking to exploit children.“You have an emerging interest in sex, you’re beginning to separate from your parents, you’re gaining your own identity and you’re also cognitively immature,” noted Smith. “Your brains haven’t fully developed like adults have. You’re not going to make the same decisions adults do, so that, unfortunately, makes you just a little bit more vulnerable” to being manipulated by a predator.“If you have an open Facebook profile with your hobbies, [a predator can be] looking for ways to contact you, whether it’s through your interests or after school activities,” she said. “Sometimes, they try to exploit children who have low self-esteem [or] they look for people who are overly sexual [in] their [online] photos. They will then try to contact and groom the victim.”She told the students her SAFE Team has seen skyrocketing cases of sextortion, when a predator uses threats to force an individual to provide sexually explicit photos or videos. According to Smith, predators troll video chat sites looking for teens who post sexually suggestive videos, which they can secretly retrieve using screen capture software to blackmail victims.“Be cautious about posting personal information and pictures online,” said Smith. “Your online actions can have real-world consequences. Think really hard about what you’re posting, because unfortunately, it doesn’t go away on the Internet. Whatever you’re putting out there, it’s going to stay with you.”She urged the students to tell their parents or a trusted adult if they see something inappropriate online and not to delete evidence. Facebook has a “Report” link where users can report abusive content such as pornography, hate speech and threats, and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children has, where people can report online harassment.Workshop participant Emma Sheridan, an eighth grader at St. Mark School in Venice taking notes during the session on her school iPad, said she appreciated the information. “What I found useful is how you can speak up and what you can do if something happens to you and what you can do to prevent it,” said Sheridan.Yonathan Rivera, an eighth grader from St. Anthony School in Long Beach said he found the presentation “very useful” in that “it teaches a lot of kids how to avoid sextortion or any other type of extortion on the Internet, how to avoid predators, what their techniques are and other ways just to be safe online. Now I feel more secure going online knowing these techniques.”St. John Bosco High School (Bellflower) senior Jack Musso, who attended the “Do U Knw Hu Ur Talkn 2” afternoon session led by LAPD Detective Carlos Monterroso, said he learned a lot about the prevalence of sextortion.“What I really learned today is that you really need to be careful who you talk to on the Internet, especially girls because there are a lot of bad people out there who have really bad intentions and you need to just constantly be aware of what’s going on,” said Musso. Franciscan Sister Catalina Avila, religion teacher at St. Sebastian School in Los Angeles and a first time attendee, said she found the symposium very informative. “It’s very helpful for my community,” she said. “I can share the information with them. I learned how the law enforcement team helps us handle things we don’t know how to handle.” Tracy Webb, senior trial attorney with the cyber crime and child abuse prosecution division in the Los Angeles City Attorney’s Office, told The Tidings that the annual cyber crime symposium is meant to shine a spotlight on the latest cyber dangers.“The overall goal is kind of a reality check about cyber awareness,” said Webb. “We all know the Internet’s out there, we all know there are dangers, we all know the basics, but I think the Cyber Crime Prevention Symposium helps to sort of tune in on exactly what dangers really are out there for our kids, because it changes all the time.”{gallery width=100 height=100}gallery/2013/1115/cybercrime/{/gallery}