Crime prevention or over the line?
Emmett, the FBI spokesman, wouldn’t discuss how many task forces like this one exist except to confirm there are others in various locations across the nation. So-called “traveler cases” in which an individual allegedly travels from out of his local area to have sex with a minor have been prosecuted in Whitfield and Murray counties for about the last four years, Conasauga Judicial Circuit District Attorney Bert Poston said.
Emmett, who said he was the only one with knowledge of the local task force who is authorized to speak to the media, said he didn’t have statistics on how many offenders the task force has arrested. He provided a general statement on the task’s force mission.
“Its primary mission is to identify and present for prosecution those individuals that are preying on minor children,” he said. “And they’re often brought to the attention of law enforcement via activities or comments or efforts that originate online and that culminate with their travel in furtherance of those efforts, and the evidence is there for prosecutors to review. These are not arbitrary allegations. These are arrests that culminate after a series of chats or comments or conversations have occurred online already.”
While many in the legal system are divided on whether the investigative techniques the task force uses are appropriate, others point out the gravity of the charges and say anything to prevent child abuse is good.
Mary Smith of the Family Support Council in Dalton, a social services organization that, among other things, works with children who have been abused, has an answer for the “victimless crime” argument.
“It’s only victimless because they were caught that time,” she said. “We don’t know how many times they were not caught.”
Smith said she learned from a recent training that one in five children is sexually solicited over the Internet. That statistic by itself should be frightening enough to take prevention seriously, she said.
“I’m not as worried about adults who are breaking the law as I am the children whose lives they break. I’m sure that some people are worried about entrapment and I’m sure that there are arguments for that. ... I wasn’t bothered at all by what was happening because of the damage that results to kids.”
Smith has a warning for parents and caregivers: Monitor your children’s Internet use and require them to use computers in an open area. Warn them not to give out personal information like email addresses, home addresses or phone numbers.