By Stephanie Malench
In 2018, Alton resident Kyle Swanson stumbled upon videos on YouTube of children and other vulnerable populations (such as illegal immigrants) being trafficked for sex. Swanson said he “calls himself an asshole” for not believing this was a problem in the Metro East.
Swanson then decided to put his whole life on the line to get sex traffickers off the street and started the undercover group KTS (Keep Them Safe) in December of that year. KTS uses anywhere 10-15 “bait profiles” on social media and dating sites to lure predators into a conversation and eventual meeting. Approximately 10-25 perpetrators unsuspectingly reach out to the bait profiles each day in Madison County and surround areas.
The majority of perpetrators come from the Alton area or St. Louis according to Nic Alsup, who joined the team to help with videography and photography. The perpetrators tend to be attracted to decoys that only have a mother and the father is out of the picture. Runaways also tend to be easy targets.
KTS turns in all information pertaining to each case to local police before exposing exposing the pedophiles on social media, but has had problems with area law enforcement agencies using the evidence to get search warrants. No one is exposed on the KTS Facebook page until everything has been submitted to the authorities.