LA CROSSE, Wis. -- While crime as a whole in Wisconsin is going down, the state's online crime rate is on the rise.
Thursday, Gov. Scott Walker made a stop in La Crosse to talk about this problem.
Growing just as fast as the online world are those who abuse its technology. Internet crimes aren't just something you hear about. Officials say it happens in our community and at our schools.
State officials say it's time to fight back. When criminals are just a click away, it can be harder to keep kids safe.
Governor Walker said it's especially difficult now that the Internet is constantly at kids' fingertips.
"They've got Twitter, they've got Facebook, they've got other sites. And it's a lot more difficult, particularly when they have it all on their phone," said Gov. Walker.
Wisconsin will be adding new special agent positions that are responsible for training local police forces and investigating internet crimes.
Administrator for the Division of Criminal Investigation, Ed Wall, said the key to keeping kids safe while they surf the net is getting to them early.154174
"This has got to be ingrained at the muscle reflex memory for kids when they see these things. Just like seatbelts are now when they didn't used to be, we need to have kids that smart when it comes to Internet crimes," said Wall.
School libraries are where many kids have their first contact with Internet safety, but with less money being funneled towards education, schools worry it's weakening our first line of defense.
"People that spend the most time with kids are their teachers. And their parents. But, realistically, most parents are working and the one on one contact is in the schools and that's where there needs to be a focus," said Christine Clair, president of the La Crosse School Board.
One of the main concerns teachers have is how budget cuts will affect their ability to teach Internet safety.
"This is a good thing. But, in the big picture when $800 million is being taken away from public education in the next two years, that's staff. And staff are the ones that have the first contact with kids," said Clair.
The co-chair of the Coulee Region Children's Internet Protection Task Force, Holmen Police Officer Crystal Sedevie, said she's excited about the increased funding and training but isn't sure what its impact will be at the local level.
Local police feel the most valuable resources would be updates.
"Keeping us up on new trends, maybe new equipment that's out for us. It is not uncommon for us to go into the middle and elementary schools and have students talk about different things that they're doing online and we have no clue. It's something totally new to us," said Sedevie.
In addition to teaching children the potential dangers of exploring the Internet, the state also hopes to tap into more resources for catching criminals.
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