In the second Internet sex sting in as many weeks, twelve men were arrested by Sheriff’s deputies in St. Johns County in April of 2016. Florida leads the nation in running sex stings where undercover deputies try and talk men into meeting with minors for sexual acts. The police describe these types of stings as proactive law enforcement. I would describe it differently. As an experienced sex crime attorney, I have now been involved in over thirty sex sting cases where police post on the Internet trying to lure men into compromising situations. In almost every case, it is the police that are doing the luring and seducing. In many cases, it is the police that make first contact. In many cases, it is the police that post suggestive profiles or make suggestive comments. In many of the cases, the men try and break off contact only to be contacted repeatedly by the undercover cops trying to lure them back in. In many cases, it is the police that ask men to bring condoms, snacks or wear particular clothing. What you see in the press releases is often simply not true. When you actually read the transcripts of the conversations, you would be shocked. Sex is the ultimate bait and often the men that fall for this are introverted, shy and sometimes mentally challenged.
The police are not catching the real sex predators with these types of operations.
Many of the departments receive financial aid in the form of equipment and funding from the Federal Government. They have to justify this “aid” with arrests and prosecutions. The real solution and the answer in keeping children is parental involvement. Parents should be the gatekeeper when it comes to Internet usage. Parental controls should be on computers. The computer should be in the living room, not the child’s bedroom. Parents need to know who their kids are chatting with. Parents should routinely check their kid’s cellphones for suspicious activity. Parents should know if their kids are “sexting” with others on the smartphones. The solution to this problem is prevention not entrapment. If the police spent a tenth of the money they do on stings in educating kids to the dangers the problem would be solved. At the core of the problem is the fact that some Sheriff’s want the publicity. It gets them elected. Some State Attorney’s in election years want to appear “tough on crime”. When they do these operations they can make press releases touting the fact that they are “protecting the children in our County”. Well over half of the men arrested are young, lonely and easily manipulated by experienced undercover chatters. They know what to say to get someone to travel to meet a minor. They know what to say to get someone to send a “dirty pic”. They know how to work the system.
If you have a son or daughter arrested for traveling to meet a minor or Internet solicitation of a minor or “Sexting”, give me a call. I may be able to help or point you in the right direction.