Detectives Go Online, Surfing for Pedophiles
Thompson, Allison, The Florida Times Union
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
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
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
"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. …