By LIZ GOFF
One of the voices on the audiotape bore the squeaky, curious
characteristics of a prepubescent boy his imagination stuck somewhere between
Superman and supermodels.
Keeping kids safe - Bob Stuber
with his "charges."
Photo Courtesy of SCI
His partner in the internet chat room
was plainly a man. And based on the raw language, the suggestions, this man was a predator
seeking sexual contact with this boy and any other youngster he might
"charm" into meeting with him.
The pair engaged in a total of 53 highly
sexually explicit "chats" over a period of seven weeks. During their final
internet chat, the man convinced his young prey to meet him on the following day in a
Queens fast food restaurant at a shopping mall near the boys home.
To meet the boy, the man flew 1,094 miles
from Orlando, Florida.
The pair met where and when they had
The man approached the boy carefully,
making sure he had the right youngster. They talked small talk about taxi rides,
why the boy skipped school and why the man wasnt at work. Thats when it
happened. The man suggested that the boy accompany him to his motel room to "do the
things" they had discussed.
Names Have Been Changed To Protect The Innocent
As the pair stood to leave
the restaurant, a team of plainclothes police officers bursted into the room, advising the
man that he was under arrest for meeting with the boy for the purpose of sexual activity.
As the team approached, the "boy"
stood, removed a baseball cap and raised his sweatshirt over "his" waistline to
reveal a detectives shield. The man grunted, cursed and shook his head when he
realized that the "boy" was actually a female cop the same officer he had
discussed having sex with during the 53 conversations over the internet.
You may ask why police who investigated
this case waited through 53 conversations, and did not arrest the man until he suggested
that the boy accompany him for sex.
The answer is not complicated.
But it is frustrating, anger-provoking.
It is not illegal for any person to speak,
suggest or act out sexual situations with another person even a child over
the internet. Current laws mandate that any such arrest would be considered an
infringement on the individuals right to freedom of speech.
It is, however, illegal for an adult to
arrange to meet with a person he knows is a minor (under 17) for the purpose of sexual
contact. In addition, the adult must suggest the sexual contact not the youth.
Thats the law like it or not.
And until some legislative body acts to amend it, police are forced to track down child
sexual predators over the internet by becoming children themselves. In the case described
here, as in all cases, police make audio tapes of internet conversations between predators
and officers posing as youngsters. Likewise, the final "meet" prior to
anticipated sexual contact is caught on audio and videotape for use as evidence.
In 2000, sex offenders utilized the
internet for sex with 12 and 13-year-old children (in the metropolitan area) 6,100
(verifiable) times, law enforcement officials said.
Law enforcement officials
said that part of the problem stems from the fact that many parents view the internet as a
babysitter. Youngsters arrive home from school to an empty house and immediately go
In a recent survey conducted by the
Association of Parents Against Predators, an internet child advocacy group with offices in
midtown and Washington, D.C., 140 of 185 youngsters polled between ages 11-13 had internet
access "carte blanche," or unsupervised. Those polled came from lower to
medium-income families, the survey said. Low-income families often do not have access to
computers at home, and youngsters from those families most often utilize computers at
after-school centers where they are strictly supervised.
Log-on to "Predator Watch" a website listing the internet names and addresses of
child sex offenders.
Photo Courtesy of SCI
Many of the 140 youngsters
displayed low-esteem problems, had few or no friends and were left alone for long
intervals, the study said.
"These are superhighway latchkey
kids," law enforcement sources said.
"We teach our children to not speak
with strangers, to not discuss anything about themselves with strangers. Its time we
told our children to stay away from strangers on the internet, as well."
Former NYPD Detective Bo Dietl has designed
a computer program to aid parents in their efforts to check-up on how youngsters are
utilizing the internet. By using "One Tuff Computer Cop," parents can catch
e-mail chat with ease. The program also deciphers "emoticons," a secret online
language developed and used by kids.
ComputerCOP Deluxe, the latest version of
ComputerCOP Corps ComputerCOP software, is engineered to be used by family members
to determine how a computer is being used. It examines a computers disk drives,
looking for images and text files containing potentially inappropriate words or phrases.
To further monitor chat and e-mail
sessions, the program installs a keystroke-monitoring tool that can be set up to be
totally invisible to the computer users. The keystroke-monitoring tool will catch
objectionable words, within their contexts, that are typed on the computer.
All suspect words found are documented in
an exploding directory tree structure in the order of their frequency of use. This allows
the user to get a complete overview of the computers suspect textual content from a
single screen of information. Included in the "word category directory tree" are
unallocated disk sectors that contain suspect words or phrases.
ComputerCOP Deluxe is designed to run on
Windows 95/98 machines, it is not possible to determine that it has been run on a
computer. Just pop it in! Click it on! Watch what your kids are watching!
For information, log-on to www.computercopcorp.com or call 800-210-4209.
New York State legislators
recently made it more difficult for child sex abusers to reach out and touch their young
Governor George Pataki hailed the passage of SARA (Sexual Assault
Reform Act) as the first major change in the 1965 state penal law defining sex crimes.
Included in the package is a provision that amends Megans Law to
require sex offenders to provide their internet accounts and screen names for publication
on the State Sex Offender Registry. Under Megans Law, convicted child sex abusers
are required to list their name(s), addresses, phone numbers and now their internet
identities and addresses to the state registry when they are paroled or put on probation
for their crimes.
The New York State law named for Megan Kanka, the 7-year-old New
Jersey girl who was raped and killed by a twice-convicted sex offender who was living in
her neighborhood, requires sex convicts to register with the state 10 days prior to their
release from prison or probation.
The offenders are classified according to three levels of risk, with
those at level three deemed the most likely to commit their acts again.
The risk level also determines the amount of information that may be
released to the public about the offender. A level one designation requires that local
police be informed of the offenders presence in the area. Police are permitted to
disseminate general information about level two offenders to the public, and a level three
designation allows police to release specific information regarding the offender
including an exact address.
The new provision also enhances Megans Law by expanding the
category of offenses covered by the statute, requiring a new class of offenders to sign up
with the registry.
Additionally, offenders residing in New York State who committed their
crimes in another jurisdiction are now required to register with the state if their
"home" jurisdiction requires them to do so. It is expected that the new
provision will require an additional 5,780 offenders to register. There are currently
9,433 people listed on the registry, which can be reached by calling 1-900-288-3838, or by
email at www.Meganslaw.com.
A federal statute formerly precluded New York State from making any
community notification on offenders, based on a finding that they were not afforded
adequate due process to challenge their risk assessment. The amended law changes all that,
by establishing specific due process procedures for review of an offenders risk
The registry listing includes the name and photo of each convict, a
physical description, address, condition of release and a description of the crime(s) and
the victims. The registry is organized by county and zip code, and even lists the make,
model, year and color of any car driven by the offender. A separate directory of offenders
is available for viewing at local police precincts.
Enter the folks at Service Corporation International,
(SCI),aka Dignity Memorial, (a consortium of local funeral homes) who have established the
first east coast website to list the internet names and addresses of sex offenders listed
on the State registry. The listing can be reached by email at www.escapeschool.com/predator/, as part
of a website dubbed "Escape School." The site includes valuable information for
parents who are concerned with the safety of their young children. Bob Stuber, a former
police officer, offers seminars sponsored by SCI, based on the website information.