Kidnapping case reminder of social media dangers

You don't have to look very far to notice teenagers with their noses glued to their phones, but it's hard to know what -- or who -- is on the other side.

NEW ORLEANS- You don't have to look very far to notice teenagers with their noses glued to their phones, but it's hard to know what -- or who -- is on the other side.

This week, police say a 13-year-old girl left her home with a 22-year-old man she met through social media. Experts say this kind of incident is more common than you think.

"Unfortunately this story is not surprising. What we're seeing play out more is this falst sense of security," Dr. Sheryl Kennedy-Haydel, Associate Professor at Xavier University said, "That you know someone just because maybe you interact with them through a direct message maybe a few times a day. When, in essence, you don't know them. All you know is what they're allowing you to know through the social media platform."

The New Orleans Police Department arrested 22-year-old Rigoberto Usher on July 12 for the kidnapping of a 13-year-old girl. Investigators tell Eyewitness News he picked up the teenager from her home against her guardian's consent. The two reportedly met on social media. 

In a study by KidsLiveSafe.com, the number of sexual predators using social media has more than doubled over the last few years, with more than 82 percent of sex crimes starting on social networking sites.

Jim Kelly with Convenant House knows this leads to potentially dangerous consequences.

"This past year we cared for over 90 human trafficking victims. And what we're finding this summer, is that we're coming across more and more who are under 17 years of age," Kelly said.

Kelly said those victims often become scarred for life.

"There are people out there preying on them. And what happens to those women, and their dignity taken away. And they're raped and assaulted," Kelly said.

According to Dr. Kennedy-Haydel, preventing these crimes could be as easy as talking to your children about social media and what might be out there.

"Whether you like it or not. Whether you think it's useful or not, it's still going to be around for quite some time," she said.

Usher is now in central lockup on a count of simple kidnapping.

© 2017 WWL-TV


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