Crime

Fired North Kansas City school custodian charged with possessing child pornography

Federal program targets online child predators

The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force was developed federally in 1998 as the number of children and teenagers using the internet increased and child sexual abuse images became available electronically, authorities say.
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The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force was developed federally in 1998 as the number of children and teenagers using the internet increased and child sexual abuse images became available electronically, authorities say.

A former school custodian in the Kansas City area was charged this week after authorities allegedly found hundreds of pornographic photos and videos of children on his personal laptop computer.

Perry A. Smith, 53, of Independence, is charged in Jackson County Circuit Court with five counts of possession of child pornography.

Local media organizations, including Fox 4, reported Smith worked as a custodian at Gracemor Elementary School in the North Kansas City School District.

In a letter that went home to parents Tuesday, the school said it recently became aware that a member of its support staff had been charged. The school said it doesn’t think any of the alleged activity occurred on school property or involved any of its students.

“Our Board of Education has adopted policies that establish expectations for staff behavior,” the letter said. “When policies are violated, North Kansas City Schools always takes appropriate action. The staff member has been terminated as a result.”

The school said safety and security is a top priority for the school district and it works to ensure all sites are safe places.

According to court records, authorities received 23 tips through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children about a computer user obtaining images from various websites commonly used to download child pornography.

Authorities obtained the user’s IP address, which was shown to be registered to Smith.

According to court records, a detective and a member of the Western Missouri Cyber Crimes Task Force took Smith off school property last week and interviewed him. He allegedly told authorities he downloaded child pornography on his laptop at his house and had been doing it for about two years. He said he sometimes downloaded the images and deleted them within hours or days.

Smith allowed authorities to search his cellphone, where they found deleted photos considered to be child erotica.

Authorities noted Smith expressed remorse for downloading the images and said he was afraid he would get in trouble. He went on to say he “had nightmares about this day coming,” court records said.

After obtaining a warrant, authorities searched Smith’s home in Independence, where they found the computer. On the computer, a detective reported finding more than 300 photos and dozens of videos showing child pornography.

Smith was held in custody in the Jackson County jail with bond set at $50,000.

A court date has not been set.

Kaitlyn Schwers covers breaking news and crime at night for The Kansas City Star. Originally from Willard, Mo., she spent nearly three years reporting in Arkansas and Illinois before returning to Missouri and joining The Star in 2017.


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