Law Enforcement and Pedophiles
Law enforcement has taken an increasingly proactive role in discovering pedophiles using the net to distribute or exchange child pornography or to entice children to participate in both virtual and real-life encounters. Law enforcement officials regularly commandeer networks that promise the exchange of child pornography as a means for baiting and catching online pedophiles who participate in the distribution of pornography. This tactic began in earnest in 1994, when the FBI set up a program called Innocent Images to catch online pedophiles and child pornography traders. The program manifested its success in a dramatic increase in the number of investigations involving online pedophiles as well as an average of 200 convictions of online pedophilia each year.
Law enforcement has also engaged Internet service providers (ISPs) in assisting law enforcement officials in finding and prosecuting online pedophiles. Although early participation by ISPs in such investigations was considered controversial and a violation of the individual’s privacy, the participation of one of the nation’s biggest Internet service providers, AOL, confirmed the ISPs valid role in assisting law enforcement in finding and prosecuting online pedophiles. In the first three years of working with AOL, law enforcement officials investigated and arrested hundreds of individuals for downloading and distributing child pornography as well as for the sexual solicitation of children online.
Law enforcement officials also use the tactic of entering chat rooms that are known areas where adult males pursue minor children for sexual purposes, where they represent themselves as young girls or boys and engage in conversations with a suspected pedophile . In most of the cases where law enforcement has been successful with this tactic, the pedophile will persuade the “assumed child” to meet him at a hotel room. Once the arrangements are made, a law enforcement agent, usually a very young-looking female agent, will meet with the pedophile and an arrest is made. Very often, these cases will result not only in the charge of attempted molestation but also possession and distribution of child pornography.