Apr 24 2013, 12:19pm CDT | by Jeffrey B. Roth
LITTLESTOWN, Pa. – Many people associate actor Erik Estrada with Francis Llewellyn “Ponch” Poncherello, on the 1977-1983 TV show, “CHiPs,” but few realize that the East Harlem native is a full-time deputy sheriff in Bedford County, Virginia.
Estrada is on a cross country promotional tour for the movie, “Finding Faith.” The film is a composite of the real-life experiences of victims, Danielle Wade, Amanda Staubs and Holly Austin Smith, who volunteered to share their stories. The film touches on Internet facilitated, child abductions and the sex slave industry that actually sells child kidnap victims to pornographers and pedophiles.
Estrada portrays Sheriff Michael Brown of Bedford County in the movie based on the real-life abduction of a rural Virginia teen, who was later rescued in Pittsburgh, Pa. Sheriff Brown, who co-produced the movie, shared his experiences with the producers about working with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, known as ICAC, which he helped found in 1998.
“I've had relatives who were victimized as children,” Estrada, who is a trained member of ICAC, said. “It's been more than 10 years since the Internet became popular, I do personally know people who were victimized their own brothers and fathers.”
“You parents and you kids have to address this problem,” Estrada, who stayed to sign autographs, said. “You know what the dangers of the Internet are; and, not just girls, but boys too. Boys get taken as much as girls get taken.”
Internet predators, Estrada said, are very skilled at using the Internet to target children. As an ICAC investigator, he has too often seen the impact of Internet crimes against children.
“The new thing is luring kids on the Internet to meet these guys and then they are taken and raped on tape,” Estrada said. “In other countries, drug cartels are buying orphanages so they can have a steady supply of children. It's more profitable than to sell a child than drugs.”
In the state of Virginia, Internet crimes against children carry a mandatory five-year prison sentence. Tougher laws need to be adopted and enforced to stem the rise of child pornography and crimes against children, Estrada said.
“When children's innocence is stolen, they never get it back,” Estrada said. “Here I am working as a cop in a different state, but I wanted to do something with my celebrity at the same time. So, now I'm a cop who acts once in a while.”
Campbell said it was decided to bring the film to the people by using the promotional tour, rather than first releasing the film in theaters. Sometime after the tour, which has made more than 30 stops around the country so far, the movie is scheduled to be released in about 100 select theaters.
Estrada told the audience that there are more than 40,000 chat rooms online where children are exposed to child predators. A survey found that 75 percent of children are willing to share personal information about themselves and their families online in exchange for free gifts or services. A kid disappears every two minutes in the U.S.
Jeffrey B. Roth
A multi-award winning writer, Jeffrey B. Roth is a well-known investigative reporter, who covers crime, law, politics, sciences, business, medicine, education, history and a wide range of other topics. In 2010, Roth won first place for a new series in the Keystone Press Awards, sponsored by the Pennsylvania Newspaper Association. A published short story writer and poet, Roth is listed in the Locus Index of Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors. Currently, Roth writes for CBS Philadelphia, CBS Baltimore, the Philadelphia Examiner and regional publications, including Carroll Magazine, Carroll Business Quarterly and Hagerstown Magazine to name a few. In the past, Roth, a former crisis intervention counselor and teacher, has written for numerous Pennsylvania newspapers, state and national magazines and the Associated Press. He lives in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, west of Gettysburg, Pa.
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