ToquiNotes: Crime Fighting Tool in West Virginia Only in the City of Bridgeport that Protects Kids and More

By Jeff Toquinto on May 11, 2024 from ToquiNotes via

The Bridgeport Police Department has a crime fighting tool at its disposal that no other agency in West Virginia has. It has been in place for a number of years and the only real concern is how much longer it will be available.
The “it’ in question is not a piece of equipment. Instead, the “it” is a person.
Since February of 1998 until this very moment, Lt. Detective Gary Weaver has been serving the City of Bridgeport and, as you will find out, well beyond. And since he became a member of the investigation team that he now heads, he has put on a hat that covers many areas.
While I do not want to shortchange what he does in all aspects of his investigative work, this blog is to single out what Weaver does in one particular area. It is the one thing that makes him invaluable to the City of Bridgeport and the one thing he assists other agencies with, and other agencies come looking to him for assistance.
If you are a child predator and doing your work online, let me assure you there is a good chance Detective Gary Weaver will find you. There is a 100 percent chance he will be looking for you.
“I can tell you that Gary routinely dedicates 12 to 15 hours a week that is solely toward Internet Crimes against Children (ICAC), but he works at it as long as needed to protect kids,” said Police Chief and Interim City Manager Mark Rogers. “He’s got kids, grandkids, and with his office next to mine we frequently talk about his work and how important it is. He sees it as his job, his responsibility, and we all get that. But those around him see it as someone going above and beyond to make a difference.”
That he has done, and in spades. Understand, in order to do this blog, I told Detective Weaver it was to focus on work involving online predators. Had I told him it would be to sing his praises, he probably would have politely refused. I say that after watching him receive a statewide honor for this very work from the United States Attorney during a ceremony in Clarksburg in October of 2020.
As he left the District Court building, he saw the media waiting for him. If he could have sprinted away, he would have. Instead, he politely obliged me and others with questions on the matter.
It is his mode of operation.
“He’s too humble to admit how good he is at what he does and he’s too humble to admit he’s viewed as one of the few experts in ICAC that he gets sought out from U.S. Attorney offices and prosecuting attorneys throughout the state and beyond to see how to handle situations and make a case better,” said Rogers. “He is that good at it. You know someone is good at something when the experts call you to get a better understanding or insight into something.”
Weaver is from White Hall, just a shot trip up Interstate 79 from Bridgeport. He admits the issue troubles him because of his personal status, along with the job responsibilities.
“I’ve got seven grandkids right now and it bothers me because I know what is going on and I see it. I think sometimes someone just doesn’t want to know it may be there and they ignore it, which is kind of a mental guard,” said Weaver. “The other thing is no one wants to think things like this happen here when, in fact, they happen everywhere.
“If you ask most people, they will tell you it’s disgusting,” he continued. “However, there are some that don’t want to admit how big of a problem it is and many, unless it directly impacts them, do not want to face it, or talk about it in a manner to prevent it. I think that’s another troubling aspect I’ve seen.”
Weaver not only is sought out at the Bridgeport Police Department for advice, but he also hits the road to give advice. Whether it is at a seminar, a conference, or scheduled classes, Weaver is usually the one leading the talk if he’s in the room.
“I’ll be teaching a class here on dissociative disorder in people, especially kids confronted with trauma from events that I deal with and how it impacts their lives,” he said. “They end up blocking things out mentally to deal with it, but then it causes so many issues in other parts of their lives. It’s just sad on so many levels what damage is done.”
Here is the amazing thing, Weaver’s expertise did not begin as part of learning on the job back in 1998. It began in 2007. As far as what most people read regarding the dozens upon dozens of arrests made catching child predators online, that began in 2010.
“It was in 2010 we began doing the undercover chat stuff. That said part is I’d estimate that well over 50 percent of the time we get a result that you want from police work, but I think anyone would tell you is you’d rather come up empty with no results because no one is out there,” he said. “That’s just not the reality we’re dealing with.”
One thing Rogers knows about Weaver is that those online expeditions to find people preying on our youth do not happen on a set shift. And that is where Weaver stands out to a lot of people.
“Gary knows there are people out there exploiting children and he’s willing to put in the time necessary to do all he can to curtail it. The activity, unfortunately, is around the clock and there are probably hours prime for that,” said Rogers. “I can assure you when it’s happening, Gary Weaver is doing what he can to stop another kid from being a victim. He’ll do whatever is necessary and he doesn’t care who gets the credit, or for that matter, if anyone does as long as a child is safe.”
Ironically, during our discussion, Weaver backed that claim by Rogers without even knowing it. He talked about how the process has evolved with child predators. As many know, multiple arrests made in Bridgeport have taken place with people from out of the area, often out of state where an arrest was made with the suspect believing they were coming into the city for an encounter with a single juvenile. Now, that is changing even though Weaver is often the one still finding the rotten apple in the internet barrel.
“We’re finding more things involved than just the initial online predatory issues. Initially, the case was me finding them and it would end up in an arrest here,” said Weaver. “Now, we’re digging and finding a lot of those involved have present or past, sadly, hands-on experience with kids or even trading of abusive materials.
“That’s happened because we now have all the local jurisdictions involved because there is a bigger picture. We turn the case over to them,” Weaver continued. “That happened (Tuesday, May 7) morning in a case where we could have got the suspect in Bridgeport.”
The case, said Weaver, was in Hagerstown. Once communication between the two law enforcement jurisdictions began, it was learned that Hagerstown Police were looking at the suspect as well.
“They jumped on it, and where we would have had just one victim in the case, there is the possibility of other victims that will be uncovered,” said Weaver. “Those are better results, and we hope can change the number of children impacted because the case may have started here, but it could have saved four or five kids now.”
Weaver has help from the regular staff and his own investigations teams, and he and Rogers were quick to point that out. Bridgeport Detectives Brett Stewart, Jason Carey, and Rebecca Morrison are all soaking up things Weaver has learned and experienced.
“When it’s time to take his well-earned and deserved retirement, he will have them ready to step in and get the job done,” said Rogers.
As for his retirement, those who see Weaver’s value know his presence will not last forever. What they may not know is the aforementioned retirement is not too far down the road.
“I don’t know how much longer I’ll be doing this. It could be anywhere from two to three months to two to three years,” said Weaver. “Honestly, I would say it’s likely closer to at least two years. I love what I do.”
It is the professional and parent in him that leads to the love. It is his humbleness in what he does that makes him likable to just about everyone who has worked with him.
“He’s humble, but he expects a lot out of any team that he’s on. One other thing, when it comes to doing the right thing Gary can be as aggressive as anyone you’ve ever met,” said Rogers, who added – which could be a future blog – that Weaver is also a Belly-Bucking champion (Google it, you won’t be disappointed). “He’s not necessarily a wolf in sheep’s clothing, but he can have sharp teeth when he needs to.”
Those sharp teeth have taken a bite out of harming children sexually through the use of a computer and the internet. Many battle the disgusting crime, but few do it better than Gary Weaver. And remember, he is part of your police force and shares his knowledge locally and beyond.
A tip of the hat to Lt. Detective Weaver. Thanks for keeping our kids safe.
Editor's Note: Top photo shows Gary Weaver at the conclusion of a standoff in the city with a local resident, while he's seen at his desk working the second image. In the third photo, Weaver is shown outside the District Court building in Clarksburg after being honored by the U.S. Attorney in 2020. In the fourth photo, he is shown teaching a course on online criminal actitivies at Tygart Lake State Park, while addressing the Police Civil Service Commission in the next image. In the sixth photo Weaver is shown at a "dead on scene" case on Main Street. Bottom image shows Weaver helping direct a live shooter activity being held at Bridgeport High School. The DOS photo is a file shot by Ben Queen Photography.

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