Sexting increase concerns officials

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Sheriff Julian Whittington speaks during Wednesday's press conference.

Bossier Parish law enforcement agencies have banded together to present to tell teens and their parents — sexting is a crime and if you do it, they will find you.

“This behavior is not unique to Bossier Parish or any particular school, this is a nationwide social issue we must address,” said Bossier Sheriff Julian Whittington.

Whittington held a press conference Wednesday morning, joined by officials or representatives from every other law enforcement office in the parish, in a show of unity. He addressed what he said is a rising case load of area teens sending each other nude, or partially nude, photos via text messages or social media sites.

He warned: “Don’t take it, don’t send it, don’t pass it on.”

“If you want to engage in sending or receiving nude photos on social media sites like Facebook or Instagram, know this: Law enforcement will track you down,” said Whittington. “We can get subpoenas, we can get your cell phone records, we can get your Internet provider address. Just because you’re in your room with the door closed doesn’t mean we can’t get you.”

When asked how many particular cases he’s investigating, Whittington said “a couple.”

“It seems like it’s building steam,” he said. “We’re getting more and more calls asking what this means and if it’s a big deal.”

He wanted to tell teens and their parents that sexting is a crime as classified by Louisiana revised statute 1481.11. And it is not to be taken lightly.

“It may seem like child’s play, but sending these types of photos could turn children into felons,” said Whittington. “If you send or receive these images under (the age of) 17, it’s a crime. Both (parties) can be consenting, it doesn’t matter. If you’re over 17, then it involves pornography which is a felony and can result in (jail time) and having to declare as a sexual offender.”

He explained that there can be long term consequences of sexting that can be devastating to teens’ futures and their psychological states.

“Kids don’t understand how serious this is. It’s a crime,” said Whittington. “They think it’s fun and games. They don’t see the danger or how they’re hurting anybody.”

In the meantime, Whittington will issue parents a letter through the school system to inform them of the problem.

“This is not about schools, this is about kids and parents. (Kids) just happen to congregate at schools,” he said. “This is an embarrassing situation for everyone and no one wants to talk about it and it grows, and grows, and grows and blows up.”