The Internet has become a popular place to go to catch up with and find old friends and meet new people — even potential romantic partners — in the process. With chat rooms, instant messaging, social networking sites, and dating sites, the Internet makes it easier than ever to find someone and make new friends.
However, the Internet is also a safe haven of sorts for predators, who, hiding behind their computer screens and with a fake identity, have been responsible for luring young girls and boys away from their homes and then molesting or raping them. By posing as teenagers themselves, they befriend real teens and then offer to meet up with them to hang out or go on a date, only to show up and then molest or rape them.
Sadly, this is becoming more and more common and has even led to the deaths of a number of these predators’ victims.
As a result, the police and other law enforcement officials are making catching Internet predators a priority. Entire departments are devoted to nothing but following leads of Internet predators and catching them. The following are some of the things they do to fight Internet predators:
These are not just for the movies. With undercover sting operations, officers will make online profiles pretending to be teen girls or boys. They then go into Internet chat rooms or on social networking sites and wait for the predators to come. Often, the predator will befriend the undercover officer and begin saying lewd things or sending graphic pictures of themselves. If the predator solicits the undercover officer for sex and the officer agrees and meets him there, the predator is arrested.
There are a number of laws that have to be in place for this to work, however. For example, describing sexual fantasies with younger girls or boys, no matter how disturbing, is not illegal, so officers aren’t able to go after them.
Educating parents and kids
All across the country, police stations and Cyber Crime Units are taking big steps to educate parents and children about the dangers of the Internet. One Unit in Florida has developed a particularly impressive website that has a Sex Offender Search website, which allows parents to locate registered sex offenders living within a five-mile radius of any address in Florida; a parents guide to online safety; child abduction and runaway issues; and the NetSmartz program, an interactive educational resource that teaches children how to stay safer on the Internet.
These efforts have gone a long way in helping people to understand the dangers of online predators and how to better protect their children.
Because this problem is becoming so widespread, entire police units across the country have been formed specifically to catch Internet predators who are preying after children. Often referred to as Child Exploitation Units or Cyber Crime Units, the specialized detectives and officers in these departments work to follow up on tips sent in to them by victims or the public, educate the public, and pretending to be teens online and then arresting offenders.
These units devoted specifically to Internet predators have been immensely helpful in catching predators.
Internet predators are a very real and dangerous problem, and police are doing a number of things to keep children and teens safe from them while online.