PORT CLINTON - The Port Clinton Police Department is warning parents that a man is posting "extremely alarming" conversations on social media with young children.
According to police, the suspect in these incidents is using the screen name “cry_baby_cryyy” on Instagram, a popular cellphone application for sharing photos, videos and messaging.
The suspect allegedly communicated with the middle-school-aged children through direct messages on Instagram and eventually over the course of the conversations told them he was a 20-year-old man, although the suspect’s identity is unknown to law enforcement and the incidents are under investigation.
Police are aware of at least four instances of the suspect contacting local children through Instagram. The incidents were initially discovered after a parent looked through their child’s phone and reported it to police.
“Though all the children told me they initially thought this person was another child, he would reveal in conversations that he is an adult male,” said Officer Richard Vance, school resource officer with the Port Clinton Police Department.
Vance described the conversations the suspect had with these children as “extremely alarming” and that the intentions were clear.
“(The conversations) went from 0 to 100 in minutes,” Vance said. “From introducing himself to clearly he had a goal and was going right toward that goal.”
Vance urged parents and guardians to check electronic devices and social media accounts used by their children — and to do so often.
“I also found that some of the parents were not even aware that their child was using Instagram,” he said. “Parents just need to make sure they know what their child is doing (on social media) and not just on the phone, but laptops, Chromebooks, whatever it is.”
The Port Clinton Police Department alerted parents to the incidents through a school announcement and in a post on Facebook, asking others to share the information.
According to Instagram’s website, the “cry_baby_cryyy” account is listed as private and has not made any public posts. The account has 275 followers and is following over 400 others, many of which appear to be children based on their profile pictures, Vance said.
The Ottawa County Sheriff’s Office is leading the continuing investigation into the incidents.