HOWARD COUNTY, Md. (WJZ) — A popular smart phone app among teens led Howard County police to an alleged sex offender, charged with soliciting a 12-year-old girl. Now police are sending parents a dire warning.
Gigi Barnett has the details.
Check your teens’ smart phone. You may find the Kik app on it. One Howard County girl had the app on her cell phone and started receiving sexually explicit messages from 21-year-old Vincent Paul Hill of Prince George’s County. She turned her phone over to cops.
“One of our detectives gained access to her account with her permission and began to communicate with the suspect over a period of of two days,” said Sherry Llewellyn, Howard County police.
Police say Hill told the girl to meet him at a shopping plaza in Columbia. Little did he know, police were awaiting his arrival.
It’s the same app a 12-year-old Perry Hall girl was using back in November, shortly after police say the Perry Hall teen was kidnapped by Victor Arroyo. Detectives found her days later in North Carolina.
“I just stopped and started crying,” she said.
Police say the danger with the app is that it doesn’t require cell phone numbers to send text messages and photos so it’s harder for detectives to track users—making the app a perfect hiding spot for alleged sex offenders.
“We want parents to be reminded that it’s not an invasion of privacy if we’re talking about your kids’ safety,” said Llewellyn.
The Kik app is not intended for younger teens. Its creators say the app is only for users 17 and older, who want to send “mature” messages—but proof of age is not required to download it.