In situations in which abuse occurs in one state and the victim lives in another, deciding where and how to interview the child can pose difficulties. Rather than detectives asking a child questions over the phone or inconveniencing a family to travel, the ideal solution is for a local child advocacy center to obtain the child’s testimony. With that goal in mind, CALICO conducts interviews for jurisdictions outside of Alameda County when needed.
Crimes that involve online abuse and exploitation often require more resourceful methods of investigation, as was the case with what happened to twelve-year-old Tabitha. Tabitha was brought to CALICO because a twenty-five-year-old man, whom she first met through a website geared to children, was sending her text messages that became increasingly sexual in nature. When Tabitha’s parents found out, they reported the communications to their local police department in Alameda County. The detective searched Tabitha’s phone records, realized the suspect lived in Arizona and forwarded the information to a detective in that state. The two detectives then began working together to figure out the most effective plan for continuing the investigation.
The detectives decided they needed to hear what happened in Tabitha’s own words, and the Phoenix detective requested a video recording. “I knew CALICO was my answer,” the Alameda County detective first thought, “as the interview would be professional, as well as thorough, and the end product would be a DVD which I could quickly send for viewing.” At CALICO, Tabitha was initially embarrassed to talk to the interviewer about the texts. But as she began to feel at ease, she shared that she had deleted many of these messages but was scared to end contact with the man, even though he wrote things that made her uncomfortable and sent her sexual pictures. He had also asked her to meet him.
Thanks to the interview and Tabitha’s account of what happened, and the teamwork between police departments, the Phoenix detective was able to find, arrest and charge the suspect with attempting to lure a child for sexual purposes. As the Alameda County detective stated, “The advantage of having CALICO as a resource was an invaluable tool in the resolution of this case.” We commend Tabitha for her courage, and are pleased that despite the complexities of the case, the investigators were able to keep Tabitha’s needs at the forefront of their investigation.