Free-Range Kids

To Catch a Non-Predator, Try Entrapment

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Trapped
Public domain

How can you turn a lonely guy looking for a date into a predator looking for a victim? All you need is a computer and a cop. Thus we must hail Noah Pransky, an investigative reporter for WTSP in Tampa Bay, Florida, for exposing the way cops fish for men on adults-only dating sites and then arrest them for being child predators. When they're not.

One way the cops do this is by first pretending to be young ladies of legal age. Then, once they develop an online relationship with a guy, they "admit" that they are actually younger, but still really want to meet. Or they say that they are eager to meet the man, but will be bringing along a younger sibling. The men don't have to indicate any interest in dating the female they now think is younger, or in dating a legal lady's younger sibling. Merely continuing an online conversation is considered soliciting a minor, as is heading off to meet the "older" sibling who will have the "younger" sibling (both non existent, of course) with her.

Pransky found a "pattern of officer misconduct in an effort to boost arrest totals." In one case, a man repeatedly texted that he emphatically did not want to have sex with the 13-year-old sister his date would be bringing along. But "after hundreds of text messages the man agreed to have sex with both females, and was arrested upon arrival."

Why create "predators" who don't actually pose a threat to kids? As always: Follow the money. In fact, follow two sources:

1.) A man accused of looking for children online can have his property seized. The police may get to keep his stuff—even if charges are never actually filed:

Sex stings have become especially rich sources for seizures, since almost every man arrested is accused of traveling to seduce, solicit, or entice a child to commit a sexual act…even though no real children are ever involved in the stings. However, the accusations are felonies, meaning law enforcement can seize suspect's vehicles, making it extremely difficult for them to ever get them back without paying thousands of dollars – or more—in cash to the arresting agency.

2). The cops also get federal dollars to hunt for child predators. These particular Florida police were spending tens of thousands of dollars on each sting, "yet the majority of men arrested were either teenagers or in their 20s and not considered risks to children." They were trying to find girls about their own age. Many of the judges, thank goodness, smelled a rat and threw the cases out. Long story short:

"The stings offered a solution to a supposed widespread problem that didn't actually exist in Central Florida."

If you are convinced that children are under constant threat from predators online, and then go so far as to set up entire government departments to "catch" them, it will seem bewildering, frustrating, embarrassing or annoying not to be able to find them. And so, if you have zero scruples and a budget to spend, you will create them.

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Pransky asks, "If you have any additional information as to how the predator operations are conducted, please contact Noah Pransky at npransky@wtsp.com. You can reach Noah on Twitter at @NoahPransky, or connect with him on Facebook too."

I guess he's not afraid of creeps contacting him on social media. (Maybe because it's just not a big problem.)