MARSHALL, Mich. (WOOD) — A 29-year-old man was arrested Monday for trying to solicit sex from a 14-year-old girl.
Calhoun County sheriff’s deputies and Genesee County Sheriff’s Office Genesee Human Oppression Strike Team (GHOST) members say that on Dec. 6, they were monitoring several social media communications where people were trying to arrange sex with children.
They say they were tracking several conversations, including one between a 29-year-old Battle Creek man and a deputy posing as a 14-year-old girl.
Officials said that the man, Robert Gray, went to Marshall with the intent of having sex with the person he thought was a teen.
He was arrested and jailed on charges of soliciting a minor for immoral purposes and using a computer to commit a crime. Detectives said Gray told them that he uses social media platforms for sexual encounters at least once a week.
Calhoun County Sheriff Steve Hinkley said that Gray had been discharged from prison on Oct. 17, only 50 days before this arrest. His previous charges included second-degree criminal sexual conduct with a victim under the age of 13, second-degree home invasion and prisoner possession weapons.
“This should be a clear reminder to parents, grandparents, and family members to place a perimeter of protection around your children. The internet is a fantastic tool and provides excellent resources and material, but there is also a significant risk of danger. I can’t think of anyone who would allow a stranger to come up to their door, invite them inside, and allow them to walk around their house. So why are people allowing strangers into their ‘social media living room’ to walk around unrestricted, talk with their children, and explore personal things in their lives,” Hinkley said in a statement. “Parents should have a solid interaction in their child’s life and should monitor and discuss social media interactions with their children. If you think your child is being groomed through social media for sex or human trafficking, you should call your local police department immediately.”
He also advised parents to check their kids’ phones and computers to learn about how they use various apps and who they’re speaking with online.
“In some cases, our children are naïve and don’t understand the dangers that are lurking,” he said. “Some indicators may be recognized by parental interaction.”
Anyone who would like to contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline can do so by calling 1.888.373.7888.