Editorial: Child sexual predators

Reality check for parents

It's a dark, chilling story: Two dozen men are arrested at a Fort Myers home where they are lured from across the state and beyond by an Internet sting.

The motivation was sex. With young boys.

The men stand accused of crimes from using a computer to seduce a child to lewd behavior.

The suspects, age 21 to 61, now are part of a made-for-TV operation called "To Catch a Predator."

While six of the suspects are from Collier and Lee counties, the rest are from areas as far away as Miami, Wellington or Brooksville. Another suspect lists a home address in Arkansas.

The draw attests to the number of sick people out there and the power of their urges.

Plus, they have callous manners of pursuit. One of the suspects was given a ride to the sting house by family members. Another brought along his 5-year-old son. Some brought laptop computers, apparently to share pornography. Others brought tools of bondage.

All were bent on child rape.

They know about the "To Catch a Predator" series and are willing to risk being a part of the show.

A private, national citizens watchdog group called Perverted Justice (www.perverted-justice.com) helped initiate the stings that now include an NBC-TV news reporter and camera crew and law-enforcement agencies. NBC touts the predator episodes as among the highest-rated of its "Dateline" series.

While dealing with an alarming public-safety issue in an effective way — exposing the public to adult men brazenly preying on what they are led to believe by online chats are teenage boys home alone — Perverted Justice hurts its cause by using sideshow terms to describe upcoming programs on NBC: "... (T)his entire upcoming four weeks will be a extravaganza of what people like best: Predators arriving, being grilled by the ever-staunch Chris Hansen, and then slapped with shiny silver jewelry."

There is just one message to parents: Monitor your children's time online.

The warning that allowing unrestricted access to the Internet in your home is similar to letting your child wander unsupervised in a major metropolitan area is closer to reality than you can imagine.

Reality is just a knock on the door away.

There is one message to law enforcement: Make sure you get the mugshots and biographies of the guilty posted on law-enforcement Web sites. None of the 24 arrested over the weekend, after cyberspace baiting since January, are known sex offenders from prior convictions.

© 2006 marconews.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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