Program helps police PCs

Published 10:26 pm Saturday, September 26, 2009

A grant obtained by the Suffolk Police Department will help parents keep their children safer.

Part of the grant, from the Gang Resistance Education and Training (GREAT) program, was used to purchase ComputerCOP CDs for parents to install on their home computers. Copies of the CDs will be handed out free to parents who request them, Suffolk Police chief Thomas Bennett said.

The program helps parents monitor children’s computer activity for evidence of gang involvement, substance abuse, sexual activity, pornography viewing, depression and chatting with predators.

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“It’s software for parents to put on home computers and monitor what sites are being visited by that computer,” Bennett said. “You can go back later and see exactly what sites they’re going to.”

The program scans photos and text files saved on the computer, and also has a keystroke recorder to capture chat logs and e-mails. Parents can monitor the files at their convenience, simply by inserting the CD and running the program. The program also comes with safety tips for parents to teach their children.

“This GREAT grant has provided us money to get the CDs,” said Bennett, who could not recall the exact amount of the grant. “It also is providing us money to provide training to our officers and to kids in different situations and different settings.”

The photo scanner brings up images that have been saved on all areas of the computer for parents to review. All images only have to be reviewed the first time — on subsequent times, the program only will pull up images that have appeared since the last time it was run. It also scans files that have been deleted, but not saved over.

Text documents and keystroke records are scanned for words included in the program’s database of several hundred. Included in the database are words pertaining to drugs (such as “meth” and “joint”); violence (such as “weapon” and “funeral”); gang involvement (such as “tagging,” a gang term for graffiti, and “soldiers” a word often used in gang names); words suggesting conversations with online predators (such as “come to” or “send me”); words suggesting depression or suicidal thoughts (such as “hopelessness”); or sexual terms.

Parents also can customize the database to include their children’s names, schools, home address and other pertinent information.

The free Suffolk Police versions of the program will run on Windows operating systems 98 through Vista. Versions for other systems and for Macintosh computers can be purchased from the program’s Web site, Free discs (one per family) can be obtained from the Suffolk Police department precincts, located at 230 E. Washington St. and 3901 Bridge Road, on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.