The Kentucky State Police have arrested a Tennessee man on sex trafficking charges. Authorities say 40-year-old Steven S. Hargrove, who is from LaVergne, TN, was arrested without incident in connection with a missing juvenile case launched early Monday morning.
This afternoon, Hargrove is housed in the Daviess County Detention Center, where he has been charged with Promoting Human Trafficking.
The Kentucky State Police were contacted yesterday morning when the parents of a Daviess County juvenile reported her missing. That investigation led troopers on a search across various parts of western Kentucky. The 15-year-old was ultimately located right here in Daviess County and was allegedly with Hargrove. Reports indicate he was apprehended on KY Hwy 54.
The juvenile was returned home; Hargrove was arrested and remains in custody.
In the meantime, authorities are urging tristate parents to take note. Corey King, from the Kentucky State Police, says, “We live in a big Mayberry. We would never think this would happen right here in Owensboro.”
However, as King explains, “the contact was made through social media and social media is a pedophile’s playground.” In fact, related statistics are alarming. According to the ICAC (the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force), there are an estimated 500,000 child predators online at any given moment.
Karla Ward, who is Executive Director of New Beginnings Sexual Support Services (a local agency that tracks trafficking cases in seven area counties), says a number of those online predators are right here in Kentucky. She says, “It happens more than people realize. Parents need to be vigilant.”
In addition to watching what your children are doing on social media, Karla says parents need to keep track of various phone apps as well. She says some have clever disguises and actually serve as a way to send and receive hidden text messages. Such apps include Shady Contacts, Calculator Pro+ (it only looks like a calculator), Vault, Message Locker and more.
King adds, “This (case) should serve as a wake up call, a reminder for area parents that this can and will happen. Parents should be aware of what their children are doing online and who they are talking to.”
The investigation into this particular case continues.