Operation CleanSweep

By Rick Braschler

Visit any camp website and you’ll see evidence of the fun and excitement that children experience all summer long. There is no greater joy as a parent than to see pictures of a child hanging out with camp friends, skiing behind a boat, or climbing a rock wall. The pictures will later serve to rekindle those memories for generations as the albums are pulled off the shelf, or rather the cloud. Yet, while most adults are capturing these memories with the best and noblest intentions, there are some people who have a different motive. This motive is to gain access to children for the sole purpose of perpetrating some type of sexual deviancy, including recording and/or distributing inappropriate pictures or videos.

So, why do I bring this topic to the surface in a camp magazine? Outside of parents and schools, the camp industry is one of the largest providers of childcare in the country, serving millions of children annually. While a rare occurrence in camping, the threat of inappropriate recording does exist and is becoming increasingly easier with advancements in technology. While more commonly known child-protective efforts involve hiring, supervising, and reporting protocols, this article focuses on the prevention of inappropriate digital images and video recording.

Lurking Threats
Understanding the threat of child sexual abuse is perhaps the key to developing effective countermeasures. Recent studies now provide clarity on the threat, further guiding child-protective efforts. Consider the following:

·        1 in 4 girls and 1 in 6 boys will be sexually molested before age 18¹
·        5 to 10 percent of the adult male population are molesting children²
·        35 percent of all child molestations are perpetrated by another peer³
·        Child sex offenders are usually 14 years old when they start abusing others, and have an average career of 13.4 years before they are prosecuted and convicted⁴
·        The conviction rate among child sex offenders is only 3 to 5 percent⁵
·        30 percent of all child molestations involve some type of digital imaging, including both showing pornographic images as well as capturing video or picture images⁶
·        In a recent study, 2.2 million IP addresses downloaded 100+ child pornographic images in a single month in the U.S.⁷

The term “child pornography” is widely used across the U.S. to refer to the production and/or distribution of inappropriate content involving minors, and is illegal in all 50 states. Many state laws also stipulate “Invasion of privacy” laws, stating that people should have a reasonable expectation of privacy, and that it is unlawful to view, photograph, or film full or partial nudity without consent. Regarding consent, all 50 states have deemed it unlawful for a minor to consent making any such production or distribution of inappropriate digital content.

In a camp setting, inappropriate digital content is most often captured through the use of digital cameras or phones by campers or staff in cabins. These activities are more reflective of bullying or horseplay than criminal intent. Nevertheless, whether the action is foolish or evil, criminal charges will likely result. In order to mitigate this threat, camp leaders should enact stringent media rules to restrict the use of picture or video imaging inside of the cabin and bathroom areas. In addition, some camps do not allow cell phones in camps, not only to eliminate the inappropriate imaging threat but also to discourage any sexting opportunities that may occur between campers.

An Effective Measure
Outside of the bullying or horseplay scenarios, there may exist a more pressing threat perpetrated by a person not as naïve as a camper or young summer staffer. This person will go to great lengths to survey the landscape, seizing opportunities to install hidden digital-recording devices to capture and record inappropriate material. We occasionally hear of this threat on the news, for example, emanating from the tanning bed or rental apartment industries, but on occasion, it surfaces in a youth-serving organization setting, such as a camp, school, or daycare. To address this threat, my camp developed the Kanakuk CleanSweep Protocol (“CleanSweep”) to enable camps to effectively protect children in camps’ programs. CleanSweep uses the technical surveillance countermeasures adopted and used by the Missouri State Highway Patrol Division of Drug and Crime Control. To execute CleanSweep, I assemble a team of men and women each spring and run through a 60-minute orientation before entering the camp to conduct periodic inspections. The objectives follow:

·        To identify what type of equipment is available
·        To explain how it is deployed
·        To reveal how to find it once it is deployed
·        To determine how to disable a device and apprehend the perpetrator
·        To protect the children.

Who doesn’t want to be a spy using all of that really super-cool spy gear? In fact, if you Google “spy equipment,” you will receive over 1 million hits for all types of equipment, including concealed cameras the size of one’s fingernail.

Recording Devices         
There are three main types of camera systems:

Wired Camera Devices
These have a hard conduit of some type that transports the video/audio information to a monitor or speaker. They can be powered by battery or household current.

·        Best signal or picture quality
·        Usually can provide long-term power at a site or over cabling.


·        Easily traced to “monitoring post” if found
·        Greater amount of time to install
·        Limited to the length of wire for distance from the target.

Wireless Camera Devices
These use radio frequency to transport the video/audio information to a monitor/speaker. Frequency can be either analog or digital.


·        No wires
·        Shorter install time
·        No direct connection to target site
·        Harder to locate.


·        Distance to target depends on the power of the transmitter
·        Usually a poorer signal than wired
·        Time depends on the capacity of the battery
·        Weak battery means a return to the target area
·        Can be on house current also.

Self-Contained Camera Devices
The camera, power, and storage are all contained within the device itself.

·        Self-contained—camera, power, and storage
·        Place and leave
·        Difficult to detect without special equipment or a thorough search.

·        Item must be retrieved each time to review
·        Multiple chances to be caught
·        Limited to storage capacity of memory
·        Nothing can be known until after the fact
·        Battery life.

The type of device will often determine how it is deployed into the camp landscape. The secretiveness needed will depend on the amount of time the installer has: “I’ve got hours to get it right; slap and go; or, somewhere in between.” Other factors the installer must consider include:

Power—Battery vs. house current
Mounting—Gravity, tape, Velcro, bungees
Lens focal length--Wide angle vs. telephoto

Combing Through A Camp
With the knowledge gained regarding the three types of devices, as well as power, mounting, and lens considerations, CleanSweep inspectors enter the camp to begin their search. An effective search will concentrate on private areas, such as bathrooms and cabins. Nothing beats a thorough and meticulous, hands-on, in-the-trenches, down-and-dirty, no-holds-barred search. If you can place your hand there, look there. Stand in the middle of the room and slowly rotate in one spot and look for the obvious. Think about access. Ask yourself, “Who are the persons who have unsupervised access to where I am searching? If they have access, do they have sufficient time to place a device?” Assume that the equipment is there; it just has to be found. For my CleanSweep team, I also plant a few “fake” devices throughout the facility to sharpen the staff’s attention, knowing that they have to find it. It takes about 60 minutes to complete the CleanSweep inspection on an average-size camping facility, concentrating on private areas (cabins, bathrooms, changing areas, etc.). Helpful hint: See if the local law-enforcement office will provide its time and expertise to help execute your facility’s CleanSweep.

When searching, supply the camp team with needed equipment to help their efforts:

·        Flashlight—light-weight with fresh batteries
·        Stepladder—easy to carry and tall enough to reach
·        Mirror—preferably with a handle for hard-to-reach areas
·        Painter’s tape—to mark a room when an inspection is complete or to mark an item for a second opinion
·        Wireless video detector or RF detector--only works if the device is turned on and is transmitting

Don’t be fooled by TV shows like CSI or NCIS and movies like Enemy of the State. If a camera is super-tiny, then it has a super-tiny battery that lasts a super-tiny amount of time, as well as having limited lens capabilities!

Locating A Device
Finally, if a device is found, don’t shout at the top of your lungs, “I found one over here!” Finding a device is only half the battle, followed by the identification and apprehension of the perpetrator. If a device is located, follow these steps:

·        Do not tamper with the device or scene (no fingerprints on the device)
·        Contact law enforcement immediately
·        Cooperate with law enforcement on the investigation
·        Initiate a crisis-response team.

As the purpose of all camp programs is to serve children, then child safety is a top priority, thus the need to develop effective countermeasures to combat the efforts of deviant offenders. While the physical CleanSweep inspection may serve to find an actual device, the “awareness” of ongoing CleanSweep inspections will likely prevent anyone from trying to install such a device in the first place. Happy camping!

Rick Braschler is the Director of Risk Management for Kanakuk Kamps in Branson, Mo., a Senior Risk Consultant in Youth Protection, and an expert in camp risk and safety management. Reach him at rick@kanakuk.com or (417) 266-3337.  For more information about Rick, visit www.camphow.comorwww.kanakukchildprotection.org.

¹Centers for Disease Control, 2005.

²Lewis, 1986 and DOJ, 1997.

³Jewell, 2013 National Youth Protection Symposium.

⁴Bourke, 2016 National Youth Protection Symposium.

⁵ DOJ, 2015.

⁶Langevin and Cumoe, 2004.

⁷ Bourke, 2016 National Youth Protection Symposium.