Cuyahoga County Prosecutor Bill Mason and the Ohio Buckeye State Sheriffs' Association announced the launch of Project Shaq Shield, a campaign to proactively protect children who use the Internet.
Project Shaq Shield is encouraging parents to take ownership of their children's Internet activities. The best defense against Internet predators is parental involvement. With nearly all children now using the Internet and cell phones, the probability of them encountering an unsolicited sexual advance has greatly increased.
The Shaq Shield app is a free iPhone app featuring basketball superstar, Shaquille O'Neal. This iPhone app, called the Shaq Shield, the first of its kind, can be accessed at www.OhioICAC.org, connecting the user to the Apple iTunes Store. The Shaq Shield encourages parents and children to pledge with Shaq to establish and follow guidelines on using the Internet. The app offers parents quick and easy information, such as Internet safety tips, a glossary of online terminology, and lingo used by children. The app will expand to other mobile devices in the future.
The Shaq Shield offers the first law enforcement-approved Sex Offender Registry on an iPhone. At their fingertips, parents not only have Internet safety tips and a pledge, but also access to Ohio's Sex Offender Registry. The data for the Sex Offender Registry is provided by the Ohio Buckeye State Sheriff's Association, which includes all 88 Ohio Sheriffs. Ohio's Bureau of Criminal Identification and Investigation (BCI & I), in conjunction with Offender Watch and Mindgrab Media, is providing support for the Shaq Shield.
Shaquille O'Neal said, "Community and parents are the best defense against Internet predators. The Shaq Shield iPhone app is a great way for parents to get informed and keep children safe online. Prosecutor Mason has led the way by creating and growing Ohio's ICAC Task Force. At 311 law enforcement agency partners around Ohio, it's strong and armed in the fight against these predators, who are smart and motivated to groom and lure our children for sex."
"Parents, download the Shaq Shield and take the pledge to keep children safe," said Shaquille O'Neal.
"Internet predators pose a serious threat to our children, because they look, act, and sometimes are the trusted neighbors next door. The iPhone app is a high-tech tool for parents to keep children safe online," said Prosecutor Mason. "Shaquille O'Neal's law enforcement experience and his commitment to helping children made him the perfect ambassador for this campaign and the iPhone app. The Shaq Shield iPhone app will be a national prototype for the 61 ICAC Task Forces around the country."
Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey, representing the Buckeye State Sheriff's Association, said, "The Buckeye State Sheriff's Association is pleased to join the Ohio ICAC Task Force on providing cutting edge technology to prevent crime. Project Shaq Shield is encouraging parents to get involved with their children's activity online. The Shaq Shield iPhone app is the first app to include a law enforcement approved Sex Offender Registry."
Ohio ICAC is funded by the U.S. Department of Justice. Local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, such as police and sheriffs, volunteer to join the Task Force to strengthen its mission of protecting children from Internet predators. The Ohio ICAC Task Force works with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) in identifying, apprehending, and prosecuting Internet predators.
Equally important, the Task Force educates parents and children on the dangers of the Internet. Presentations are conducted by Ohio ICAC Task Force agents in schools, churches and at community events. Since 2003, the Task Force has conducted more than 1,000 presentations to over 75,000 people around the state of Ohio.
Prosecutor Mason started the Ohio ICAC Task Force in Northeast Ohio in 2000 to combat the alarming new trend of Internet predators and then expanded the Task Force state-wide in 2003. Currently, the Task Force is made up of 311 law enforcement agencies, with at least one agency located in each of Ohio's 88 counties.
The following law enforcement officials were in attendance at the Cleveland Indians game:
Cuyahoga County Sheriff Bob Reid, Mercer County Sheriff Jeff Grey, Warrensville Heights Police Chief Bill Jelenic and police and sheriff representatives from North Olmsted, Gates Mills, Rocky River, Olmsted Falls, Bay Village, Pepper Pike, Lorain County Sheriff, Adams County Sheriff, Case Western Reserve, and Cuyahoga Heights.