CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - No matter how many times they've done it, serving a warrant can never be routine for the agents of the State Bureau of Investigation. On a Tuesday evening in May, they gathered with their law enforcement partners in Lincoln County to review a plan they would be executing moments after.
WBTV was there as agents knocked on the door of a mobile home in Iron Station. The man who came out looked confused, but it wouldn't take the SBI long to tell him why they were there.
Kevin Roughton, Assistant Special Agent in Charge of the SBI's Computer Crimes Unit, said they have proof the man's been downloading child pornography.
"There really is no stereotypical offender. It crosses all walks of life," Roughton said.
It's happening every day right under our noses. Roughton pulled up a shocking map cluttered with red dots. He says each of those dots represents dozens of computers actively engaged in internet crimes involving children.
"It is happening vastly more than we think it is. It is anywhere. It could be anybody," Roughton said.
In 2016, the SBI and their partners made 161 child exploitation related arrests across North Carolina. There have been 69 people arrested so far in 2017.
People living on the quiet Iron Station street likely didn't know SBI agents would show up there accusing their neighbor, 23-year-old Jacob Mountz, of downloading hundreds of files of child pornography for months.
"With the Internet, it's available easily pretty much from any computer, and nowadays almost any phone," he said.
So who are these children who are being exploited around the world for the pleasure of demented criminals? Roughton says they can be absolutely anyone.
"I think a lot of that stems from parents not being as involved in their child's life as they should be," he said.
The cases they investigate often fall into two categories - either someone is taking sexually explicit photos of a child, or the child is taking pictures of themselves after falling for a predator's lies online.
"You don't know them in real life, then you don't know who you're talking to regardless of what they told you," Roughton said.
Roughton begs every parent to have their child's password and actively search through their messages. He says it's not enough to simply be their friend on social media.
"They can post a lot of things, they can do a lot of things, they can talk to a lot of people that may not show up in that feed for followers to see," he said.
Back in Iron Station, agents spent hours interviewing Mountz and searching the devices inside his home for any trace of child pornography.
"The content that we have to look at, that we have to see, is not something that anyone ever wants to see. But unfortunately, it is something that has to be dealt with," Roughton said.
Five hours after they pulled into this driveway, Mountz was arrested and charged with third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor. He is being held in the Lincoln County Jail on a $150,000 bond and is scheduled to appear in court on May 30.
Maybe of the SBI's tips come from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. To report an incident or for more information on how to keep children safe, visit http://www.missingkids.com/home.