Crime

This 35-year-old man preyed on elementary school girls on social media, police say

Multiple girls at Ocean Bay Elementary School were social media friends with and received inappropriate photos from a 35-year-old man who initially told the students he was 13, according to a report.

Horry County Police officers were called Tuesday to the elementary school in the Carolina Forest area at 950 International Drive.

They spoke with a woman there who received a tip about an 11-year-old girl having an inappropriate picture on her cellphone, police said. After the woman contacted the girl’s parent, the victim also told the parent that another also girl was involved.

Police spoke with parents of the two victims and were told that one of the girls was talking to a man on Snapchat, Instagram and musical.ly, according to the report.

One victim had been messaging the man since about April 16, police said. She reportedly told the other victim to add the male suspect on the social media apps as well.

The man then allegedly messaged two inappropriate pictures and a video of his private parts through the social media apps, the report says.

The girl said the man added her on the app musical.ly, and she then added him on her Snapchat and Instagram accounts as well, police said. She said he first told her he was 13-years-old. After talking with him, he said he was 35 and from England, the report states.

The victims said the suspect never asked where they lived or if they wanted to meet. They also said the pictures didn’t match a profile picture of the suspect. Police said they viewed the suspect’s social media page and found he was friends with multiple girls at the school, authorities said.

Police advised that a school-wide safety bulletin go out on the dangers of talking to strangers on the Internet, the report says.

Both victims had already blocked and deleted the suspect from their social media accounts, so there was no more evidence to gather from their conversations, according to authorities.

Horry County Schools spokeswoman Teal Britton said students have to review an electronic safety policy when they get their learning devices. “It covers not giving out personal information and not communicating with people who you don’t know who they are,” she said.

Britton said social media safety should be a concern for anyone who interacts with kids.

“How do you age-appropriately make them aware of some of the vulnerabilities they have in social media?” said Britton. “That’s not a job that belongs in one house, that’s a job that belongs in every house.”

Police said the case is inactive unless more leads arise, the report states.

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