SANDY, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) – In the last week state troopers have saved six children from abusive situations. And it is all thanks, they say, to a new program that trains officers to spot signs of child abuse. They say with this new training and a system that’s been in place since 2007 they’re hoping to rescue even more children from those types of crimes.
On July 21, 2015, a trooper with the Utah Highway Patrol noticed three kids between the ages of 7 and 13 on I-25 W near I-80 standing on the side of the freeway. The juveniles indicated to the trooper that they were leaving the state heading towards their grandmother’s home in South Dakota. State Bureau of Investigation agents were able to determine these children were running away from an abusive situation and coordinated with Salt Lake City detectives and the Children’s Justice Center for resources for the children. Police identified Darrick Alfonso Shelton in connection with the abuse.
The next day, on July 22, 2015, a trooper involved in a traffic stop involving a semi-truck in Grand County noticed a large amount of smoke between the truck and trailer. The stop had occurred on SR-191 in Grand County. Following the fire investigation, the trooper noticed multiple bruising on a child as they were being transported to Moab; all three children between the ages of 3 and 6 were interviewed. From the interviews they gathered enough information to arrest and book the driver of the semi-truck, Pavel N. Prokoshev, into the Grand County Jail on second-degree child abuse charges.
These two cases highlight the new training officers have received to identify the visible and hidden signs of child abuse.
“Are they pulling back? Do they have a scripted story? Are they being controlled in a certain way as far as their story goes? Are they traveling with people they don’t know and don’t know them?” said Tyler Kotter, Captain of the State Bureau of Investigation.
The training requires officers to ask more questions when coming across a suspicious situation, and it appears to be working. Since the training began last year. Police have been able to rescue 8 children who had either been kidnapped, exploited, or endangered.
The training began in Utah after the Texas Department of Public Safety launched an initiative in 2009 to rescue and protect children from abuse. Last year, the Utah Department of Public Safety joined with Texas DPS to train officers here in the state in identifying these signs.
Most crimes of these circumstances are never reported. The key is for officers to observe and identify it themselves while out on patrol, and then do an investigation. After gathering their information they can send it to criminal analysts at the Statewide Information and Analysis Center who will look at that information, make connections and connect with agencies across the state to identify the suspects.
Since 2007, the Statewide Information and Analysis Center (SIAC), has allowed agencies to access information in ways they never could have in the past, all thanks to state of the art technology.
“With child abuse or human trafficking a lot of the time it’s moving from point A to point B, so when officers have an opportunity to see it, identify it, and avert it, it’s a real opportunity for us to make a difference in a victim’s life,” said Commissioner Keith D. Squires of the Department of Public Safety.
Analysts at SIAC can follow trends, compile information on criminals, and create a profile of a criminals activity, and distribute it to all agencies in the state, making it harder for the bad guys to escape and in the process save more children.