FORT COLLINS, Colo. (KDVR) — Police are concerned there could be additional victims after a Fort Collins man was arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a teenager he met online.
Nathaniel Strauss, 42, is facing multiple felony charges, including sexual assault.
Police say that teen’s mother found conversations between Strauss and the child on an app on their phone, leading to the arrest.
“She did the right thing and reported it to our unit,” says Det. Justin Butler. “Definitely a scary situation.”
Butler says the Crimes Against Persons Unit has seen an increase this year in cases involving children and sexual predators.
“We’re definitely seeing an uptick in cases,” he says. “Every kid in school has been forced into this online world, whether the parents were ready for it or not, and unfortunately, there’s people out there that have taken advantage of that situation.”
He says predators have been creating fake social media accounts to try to convince children to send them videos or photos, and in some cases, to meet in person.
“A lot of times they’ll go on your child’s social media and they’ll use their likes, and favorites, and friends, and they’ll use that to get close to them,” he says. “These guys are sophisticated, they’ll throw the bait out there to 100 people, and maybe one or two bite and start communicating, and that’s all it takes.”
Butler says it’s important to talk with your kids about the dangers of talking to strangers online.
“A lot of times when things happen online, they don’t go away. If you send a video or image to someone, that video is out there, and they sometimes will outlive you as a person. They’re hard to get away from,” he says. “As a parent, if you have a chance to stop that from happening, as awkward or weird as it may be to have that conversation with your kid, I think it’s something that you have to do.”
You can find more information on digital safety on the Fort Collins Police Services website.