Getting to Know CRC’s Lead Instructor Kevin West
Kevin West served in law enforcement for over 40 years, having started his career in 1979. Even in those early years, he received specialized training in child sexual abuse cases. In the 90’s, he transitioned to becoming an Intelligence Agent, and began working undercover for the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force Program. Kevin ended up as the ICAC Commander and served until 2009, when he retired for the first time! He has trained officers in most U.S. States and all over the world! He has been working with the Child Rescue Coalition since its inception, and has recently been named Lead Instructor.
West is dedicated to preventing child sexual abuse, and saving children, and we wanted you to get to know a little about him. Here’s a Q&A with our newest team member, Kevin West.
How was CRC Technology important to the cases your team was working on?
We started using a precursor to CRC Technology in North Carolina around 2003. I trained every officer I could in the North Carolina ICAC! We made countless arrests and prosecutions over the years with the CRC Technology and I found it to be an invaluable tool. When I retired in 2009 I still wanted to help protect children so I returned to work – this time for Cary Police Department. I enjoyed working again as an investigator instead of supervising other police officers. Cary Police Department soon became known around the state as having a progressive unit because of all the great arrests we were making.
To provide a quick example of using CRC Technology, I began a case against a target and developed the information required to apply for a warrant to search his residence. It turned out that another cop had received information about the same suspect – a Doctor had reported to police that a child of just three years old told him she was being sexually abused. Cases like this are very difficult to work on and to prove an offense actually took place – the main witness being only 3 years of age. The use of CRC Technology was the turning point in getting into that home and rescuing the child.
That same scenario, of rescuing children, played out over and over in the cases I worked. In another case a six-year-old boy, when we were serving the search warrant for CSAM, came to me and told me his own father had been abusing him.
You once provided us this tip, “Children need to be taught that the Internet is safe as long as they are communicating with people they know and trust. The danger on the Internet comes from talking with people they do not know.” Do you have any advice for how parents can explain this to their children?
Our children cannot simply walk up to strangers in the street and they shouldn’t do that online either, but that’s what’s happening. Parents and children build a relationship over time founded on trust. Children should learn things that are true in “real-life” are not necessarily true in online life. Trust should only be given to people we know and can access in real life situations – not to online strangers.
What is the number one thing you wish parents would do to keep their kids safe online?
From the moment they can hold a device, some parents substitute devices as babysitters to keep kids quiet. This process evolves into parents abandoning all common sense when it comes to kids and devices. Quit it!
How has the internet become more dangerous in the last decade and what can be done about it?
The Internet and its dark side feeds the illegal desires of those who prey on kids. It has evolved into an acceptance of behaviors in the online realm that drives child predators to think they are among millions, helping to normalize their behavior.
CSAM has skyrocketed over time, far outpacing any other type of crime in the world. And this type of crime, the sexual abuse of children, is still rising.
No one wants to know. “Don’t tell me, I think it doesn’t exist” is the mindset of most people.
The prevalence of CSAM and its ever darkening content is feeding fantasies of rape in the minds of all types of people who are tying to make children into a sexual object. It never stops growing in their minds and erodes away the cognitive barriers that they, and society, have placed on their actions. Each and every fantasy chips away at that wall until the wall crumbles and hands on offenses occur. That crumbling process, for many, has been ongoing for years (as evidenced by numerous confessions of a lifelong habit) and the hunger grows.
What career accomplishment are you most proud of?
I am more proud of my family, our togetherness, and love over the years and my grandchildren that any achievement in my career. I have five children of my own, four girls and one boy. I watched and monitored them growing up so they would be safe. I have 17 grandchildren and have helped them try to be safe. I love those children, and see that I have the experience and the ability that can help other children, so I have tried to make that my mission in life.
Beyond that, I am proud of the work that I do protecting children. I have been on the ground floor, for example, in training in Brazil and other countries. What Brazil has accomplished in the numerous arrests and rescues has a special place in my heart – that is a result of training I have helped Child Rescue Coalition accomplish. I wouldn’t trade that feeling of satisfaction I get for all the accolades I have been given over the years.
Any advice for law enforcement looking to follow in your footsteps?
Pace yourself. Set stopping points each day.
Don’t try to tackle and eat the elephant in one day.
Remember – one bite at a time.
Burn out is real, I have seen it.
I went home each day and stayed home mentally and physically. Work stayed at work. My wife was my sounding board. Let your significant other be a help. I don’t mean you have to describe everything you see. What I do mean is tell them when you are down and hurting, get their input on how to come back up. Tell them when you are stressed instead of letting them know in non-productive disruptive ways. Be there for your family in “whole,” in whole mind, heart, and soul.
Notice the good in them. Notice and take pleasure in all the good kids and families you see. If you do those things you can survive without major damage.
What would you like law enforcement to know about CRC technology and why they should be using it?
CRC Technology is a pre-emptive strike, we spend too much time on reactionary investigations. NCMEC, and others are reactionary and we need to investigate those cases, but proactive pre-emptive strikes find the suspects just as fast. Find time to work on both kinds of investigations.
I wish Law Enforcement as a whole could spend more resources and manpower on arresting a child rapist versus taking a low level drug dealer off the street. Think about the societal impact of both and then ALLOCATE resources to both if you need to, but quit making the ICAC Unit some “when you have time guy” investigation. Make it as much a priority as all those street level drug campaigns.
Why are you so passionate about child protection?
Child Protection has been a part of my career for 42 years. I remember the first child death case I worked as a new rookie patrol officer. A three-year-old was left unattended outside near a pool while “mommy” took a nap. I had my own three-year-old son at the time and was affected by that one single case for a long time. It was senseless.
I remember I ended up working a case involving my own daughter’s friend! She had disclosed that a doctor she was seeing had sexually molested her. It was an eye doctor who told her he “had to examine her body parts to see if they affected her eyes.” I took on the case and began an investigation. It was the first time I’d examined a computer in a case – this was even before Windows existed! I found incest-type stories on the doctor’s storage material – this type of material is something we also track at Child Rescue Coalition. The Doctor escaped, and was successfully apprehended several states away trying to get money from his bank. He was prosecuted and convicted. I felt closely connected to the case as I actually knew the victim and her parents.
In one unit I worked in there was a decision to organize a group of agents in each district to receive specialized training in interviewing children – I volunteered. I cried with so many kids in interviews and felt their pain as they would disclose to me the terrible things that had been done to them. I wanted a way then to find these people and get them off the streets so those children who were too afraid to tell would be able to find some relief. When the chance at running the NC ICAC as a commander came open I saw in that, and have seen in CRC, the chance to be “that guy” who can make a difference – one child at a time.
What’s one thing no one knows about you?
One thing I would like people to know is that each and every one of us who do these cases are affected. Some of us are able to deal with it and some are not. I have been fortunate to have a family and faith that helps me deal with it well.
I would guess that not many know my joy in wood carving and making beautiful things out of wood. Over the years I never had a lot of time between balancing family and then career, but now well into retirement, I have been able to make so many things. I finished and entire nativity set carved from cherry wood including the crèche for the figures recently and am immensely pleased with how it turned out.