Biloxi Police Surfing Web For Online Predators - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

08/02/05

Biloxi Police Surfing Web For Online Predators

Police say sexual predators have found a new way to stalk children and teenagers.

"In the old days where they used to hang out at the YMCA, ballfields and so forth, now they're hanging out on the Internet," Donnie Dobbs with the Biloxi Police Department said.

The Internet is anonymous and starting a chat with an unsuspecting victim is easy, as Investigator Donnie Dobbs showed us.

He logged on to a chat room, posing as a 13-year-old girl. Within just a minute, a response from the Midwest.

"He says he's 50-years-old. His name's Ollie."

Ollie quickly disconnects. But two other men break into the conversation, and age apparently doesn't matter to one of them.

"He's 26-years-old and he wants to have sex with a 13-year-old."

Since the men are over 18-years-old and talking sex with someone they think is a juvenile, Dobbs says they're commiting computer luring.

"Computer luring can be anything from just having a conversation with that individual, to actually setting up to meet with that individual. And we've had that happen, where we had bad guys show up to meet with us thinking that we were the 13-year-old they were talking to."

In the last year, Assistant District Attorney Mark Ward has prosecuted only about ten such cases, but he predicts that to increase.

"We've been very lucky to get a high percentage of those who initially chat with us and begin conversing concerning sexual intercourse and sexual event and we've been very lucky to lure a high percentage of 'em down here and make arrests," Ward said.

Ward said those arrested can be charged with crimes like child pornography and the transfer of sexually explicit material, and they can go to prison for at least ten years.

Investigator Donnie Dobbs said anyone convicted of computer luring can get at least 15 years in prison, and a second offense can get someone up to life.

by Marcia Hill

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