TRACY, Calif. — Two recent incidents in Tracy have left many parents and students outraged and concerned about safety after a teacher was arrested and accused of sex crimes against students at high schools in Tracy and Modesto, and a Tracy basketball coach was arrested for allegedly sending sexually explicit messages and arranging a meeting to engage in sex acts with a 14-year-old boy.
"A lot of times, we get a crimes against children notification that always start off with an IP address," said Tracy Police Department Sgt. Mario Ysit. "Those cases are still under investigation. We've got no reports of additional victims."
However, the heinous crimes have left parents questioning how they can protect their children, especially in the digital age.
"Some statistics show that up to 60% of kids have been exposed to some type of sexual content online," said Ysit. "A lot of the kids in these situations where they're being romanced get so excited and flattered and lose perspective on things, that they may not really see the warning signs," said David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Research Center at the University of New Hampshire.
Ysit says it's incumbent for parents to protect their children by having open discussions and closely monitoring their internet and cell phone activity through a parental control app.
"If your children don't want to share the phone with you or they quickly turn it off when you come in the room — or you find that they only use it when they're away from the parents, that's unusual," said Ysit.
Finkelhor says grooming is a commonly used method among predators to engage children — a method where the abuse may occur with minimal risk of detection.
"Most of the situations that lead to crimes actually starts with somebody that the kid knows," said Finkelhor.
Experts also say parents should teach their children it is okay to share concerns without fear of their feelings being minimized or getting in trouble.
"It comes down to see something, say something. If society lives like that, we can get to the bottom of some of the evil that is out there," said Ysit.
If anyone has more information on these two cases, contact the Tracy Police Department.