8 of 9 suspects in Sturgis Rally internet child sex sting operation are local

Published: Aug. 20, 2021 at 6:49 PM CDT
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - Law enforcement has been running an internet sex sting operation during the Sturgis Rally for years looking for people looking to have sex with minors.

Nine men were arrested in the operation this year, and eight of the suspects are local.

The internet shrouds a person and offers something that the physical world could never; anonymity. In other words, you can never know for certain exactly who is on the other side of the screen.”

Special Agent Brent Gromer with the South Dakota Division of Criminal Investigation, says, “with the internet, there’s a level of anonymity and people think that they can hide behind those computer screens. Where an individual who may not try and groom and abuse children in real life, they have that level of anonymity that causes them to think that they can groom or harm children on the other side or through the internet.”

It doesn’t end at the keyboard.

“They’re willing to act on their actions” says Gromer, “and the victims are just as real.”

Those victims, young boys and girls.

“We certainly have an issue within our own communities here in the Black Hills,” says Gromer.

Eight of the nine sex sting operation arrests conducted in Sturgis this year were locals.

The operations don’t only happen in Sturgis or in South Dakota. Local, state and federal resources are funneled into conducting these stings year round.

“Sometimes the internet is used as a medium to abuse kids from anywhere. It’s not uncommon that we’ll see offenders that have multiple victims from around the world. I think it’s a huge problem. As I stated, just from our rally operation, the first year that we held that operation we arrested nine individuals, and here we are almost a decade later and we arrested nine individuals,” says Gromer.

As for what can be done, Gromer says, ”what I always tell parents is that they need to be vigilant and monitor what they’re doing online.”

Gromer says that no child should have a dating app, and that virtually any app with message boards predators may use to groom kids.

He says that this is the first generation that has grown up entirely with technology and it’s a parents responsibility to try and keep up if they’d like to keep their kids safe, because it’s a problem that’s likely not going away.

“We’ve been trying to work ourselves out of a job, for at least my last a dozen years. Whether that will ever happen,” Gromer says, “I don’t know.”

Gromer says a lot of predators hide this from all wakes of life and that they’re usually men. Sometimes with wives, who keep their pedophilia to themselves during the day, and share a bed with their spouse at night.

“An offender may not see these children as children because that communication occurs through the internet. Which is a dangerous thought because these are true children and true victims, even though the internet is the means of victimization,” says Gromer.

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