Headline Archives

   

TRAVELERS' ADVISORY
Beware of Online Child Predators

12/12/05

Crimes Against Children GraphicThey prowl Internet chat rooms hoping to lure teens into cyber flirtations. Over time, these adults cultivate online romances. Then they try to move their victims offline for intimate—and illegal—relationships.

We call them "travelers"—adults who travel to have sex with children they've met on the Internet. And we want to get them off the road.

How do we stop these predators? Largely through our Innocent Images National Initiative, which teams FBI agents and local police in proactive task forces across the country. These officers and agents pose as kids in Internet chat rooms and wait to be approached. Tragically, it usually doesn't take long.

"If predators start talking with us instead of a real child, we're potentially keeping them from victimizing someone," said Kevin Gutfleish, a senior analyst with Innocent Images. "Prevention is what we're all about."

"We follow strict guidelines to make sure we're not entrapping anyone," Gutfleish added. "We've found that travelers know exactly what they're doing when they arrange these trips and are perfectly clear what they expect to happen when they meet their victims." Most travelers we catch end up pleading guilty, he said, because the evidence is overwhelming.

Others try enticement: sending money or a ticket to minors to lure them to visit. It can also include encouraging minors to engage in illegal sexual activity, such as child pornography.

Despite these efforts, the number of these cases is on the rise. Right now, we've got some 4,400 Innocent Images cases currently being investigated across the nation.

Why the increase? We believe it's a combination of factors, including:

  • More teens on the Internet (according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 73 percent of 12-17 year-olds now surf the web) as well as more predators, who find the Internet an ideal environment for targeting vulnerable children.
  • More victims are stepping forward.
  • More investigators are actively pursuing cases.

We urge you to heed our Travelers' Advisory. Carefully consider the risks of your kids traveling in chat rooms and: