The Internet has become a popular way for people to socialize, meet new friends and dates, and reunite with old friends and classmates. People can get on chat rooms, dating sites, and a number of other websites and find hundreds of people with common interests to talk with and befriend.
Internet predators — a real problem
However, these sites are also popular hangouts for Internet predators. The Internet provides a great deal of anonymity, allowing people to disguise themselves to be whoever they want. For this reason, Internet predators can troll these chat sites and message forums looking for victims, usually teenage girls or boys, and then pretending to be their age and befriending them.
Once Internet predators have established a friendly relationship with these teens, they may arrange to meet them. Thinking they are meeting up with a friend their age, the teens are lured to a spot where they are molested, raped, or sometimes worse. Some Internet predators are particularly violent and have even killed their victims.
Internet predators may also send sexually explicit photographs to teens online, or try and have lewd conversations with them. They may expose themselves on webcams or do a number of other disturbing things to their victims. The ability to hide behind their computer makes them difficult to catch.
What police are doing to fight Internet predators
Alarmed by the seriousness of Internet predators, police are doing many things to fight them. Many departments across the country have set up Cyber Crime or Child Exploitation Units. These special units devote their time to finding and arresting online predators, and they have had a great deal of success in catching Internet predators. Most make at least twelve to eighteen arrests per year, more in larger cities or in departments with more personnel and a larger budget.
Police go about fighting Internet predators in a number of ways. One way they do so is by frequenting sites that predators tend to lurk in, such as Yahoo or AOL message boards. They pretend to be teen girls and try to lure predators themselves. If a predator sends pornographic material, or arranges a meeting to solicit a minor for sex, the police will meet them and arrest them.
Educating the community and parents are another way police fight Internet predators and consider this to be a big part of fighting online crime. Many parents are unaware that Internet predators are so prevalent, or they are unaware of the websites their children are visiting. By educating parents, teachers, and teens, they can help prevent a number of sexual crimes against kids and teens that originate online.
Some stations have also set up websites and hotlines that help parents and teens turn in suspected online predators. These sites also have links to lists of sexual offenders in the area, which can also be helpful in identifying online predators.
The police also play a large role in helping convict these online sexual predators by assisting the attorney general’s offices and by testifying in courts against the online predators they help to arrest.
Internet predators are a growing problem all over the world and can even be violent. Police are working hard by implementing new programs and educating the public in order to stop these online predators before they strike.