Detectives Go Online, Surfing for Pedophiles

Article excerpt

Doug Rehman knows pedophiles are lurking on computers because

they often approach him as he surfs the Internet or hangs out in

a cyberspace chat room.

When he logs on, that's what he hopes they'll do.

As a special agent with the Florida Department of Law

Enforcement, Rehman has spent more than 1,000 hours online

posing as everything from a young boy or girl to an adult

pedophile to capture people who prey on children.

"The computer has allowed us for the first time to really

proactively investigate pedophiles and get them before they get

children," Rehman said. "Now for the first time we have a way,

without putting children in harm, to identify these child

predators."

In Jacksonville, two detectives in the Sheriff's Office vice

unit have been posing as young children on the Internet for the

past seven weeks. In that time, they have made seven arrests,

said detective J.W. Strickland.

In Clay County, officers arrested a 32-year-old Jacksonville

music teacher last month and charged him under the 1986 Computer

Pornography and Child Exploitation Prevention Act, which forbids

using a computer to facilitate or encourage sex with a child or

depictions of sex with children.

Investigators said William Thomas Strong Jr. of the 6000 block

of Georgewood Lane West in Jacksonville solicited sex on America

Online from a Clay County deputy who identified himself as a

14-year-old boy. Strong was arrested when he went to meet the

deputy.

Despite the recent rash of arrests, Rehman said computers have

intensified the "pedophile problem."

"The computer has provided an opportunity for exploiting

children like no other technology has in the past," Rehman said.

People are able to meet others from around the world at the

touch of a button and trade pornographic material with them

quickly, he said. By going online, a pedophile is able to meet

more potential victims and other pedophiles.

People who prey on children know how to attract them, Rehman

said.

"They know exactly how children think, they know which children

to target and they know what the children want, which may be

companionship," he said.

During the three years he has been investigating in cyberspace,

Rehman estimates he has made about 12 arrests personally and led

investigations that resulted in about 75 arrests nationwide. …