Crime

St. Louis man charged with having sexual relationship with girl in Illinois, police say

Federal program targets online child predators

The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force was developed federally in 1998 as the number of children and teenagers using the internet increased and child sexual abuse images became available electronically, authorities say.
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The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force was developed federally in 1998 as the number of children and teenagers using the internet increased and child sexual abuse images became available electronically, authorities say.

A 27-year-old St. Louis man came to St. Clair County in order to have a sexual relationship with a girl who is younger than 16 years old, the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office said.

Joseph L. Hughes had his bond set at $100,000 after he was charged with four counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse, one count of sexual exploitation of a minor, and one count of traveling across state lines to meet a minor.

Hughes engaged in conversations with the girl over the internet and eventually came from St. Louis to meet the girl in an unincorporated area of St. Clair County near Belleville, and engaged in sexual acts, the sheriff’s office said.

St. Clair County Sheriff Rick Watson said in a news release that child sexual exploitation is a growing crime as there are multiple ways for children and juveniles to meet people on the internet.

“I know it can be difficult, but parents need to be vigilant in knowing who their children are communicating with on the web,” Watson said. “Parents are the first line of defense to prevent victimization, these predators are expert manipulators, and parents need to talk to their children about these kinds of situations.”

Joseph Bustos is the state affairs and politics reporter for the Belleville News-Democrat, where he strives to hold elected officials accountable and provide context to decisions they make. He has won multiple awards from the Illinois Press Association for coverage of sales tax referenda.
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