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November 8, 2005

Predators are everywhere

Chris Patterson

There is little in America that raises one’s ire more than a reporter. I know because that is what I did for a living for seven years here.

So it is exciting be able to brag, if you will, about something the media has done that most will applaud, not only here in Frederick County, but across the nation.

NBC’s Dateline presentation of “To Catch a Predator” aired last week on a couple of its channels. The show chronicled a sting to catch sexual predators seeking relations with teenagers.

NBC used a controversial vigilante group called Perverted Justice, whose members pretended to be minors online. Within moments of entering a chat room for Virginia residents, many men approached the “teens” and started talking about sex. In online discussions, they discussed things like oral sex and bestiality.

During the cyberspace conversations, each online predator was invited to meet the minor at a house in a Virginia suburb. NBC then caught the men as they arrived and departed. They also caught some very telling interviews on tape. All-in-all reporter Chris Hansen had 19 men take the bait. Later in an interview with Katie Couric, he said they probably could have had 70 men come to the house.

Yes, it was that easy.

Obviously, folks, this subject is difficult to discuss, much less hear about. As a grandmother of five, it’s painful and scary, too. But realists we must be, as Yoda would say. The world is a dangerous place and closing our eyes to its pitfalls does not help.

Will the special education teacher, the assorted military personnel, the rabbi and others caught on camera be prosecuted? That’s a question to be answered.

But one thing is certain. Unless we catch and stop these men, they will never stop seeking to abuse our nation’s children.

One of the people caught on camera entered the house wearing the Emperor’s New Clothes. He stripped in the garage before entering and was naked during the interview. The very next day this man was back online and Chris Hansen confronted him at the fast food restaurant at which he’d arranged to meet another boy.

So all of this is not good news, but it is helpful news. It’s what we need to hear.

As adults in our community we cannot assume that just because someone should be a good person that he or she really is one. We must be vigilant even when it is not easy to be that way.

My grandson was at a birthday party at Chuckie Cheese last weekend and his Dad asked us at the last minute to pick him up. The father of the birthday boy would not let us leave with our grandson – although we could have tried to make a break for it I suppose – until we got his parents to tell the dad it was okay.

We couldn’t get in touch with my grandson’s parents, but fortunately his rabbi was there. He knew us and verified we were his grandparents. Frankly, though, we were prepared to stay as long as we needed to if we couldn’t get someone to vouch for us.

Why? As a grandparent, I am proud of that father for doing something that might have really ticked some folks off in an effort to protect my grandson.

And as a reporter, I am proud of NBC for graphically showing us how incredibly easy it was to catch dozens of sexual predators. These disgusting people are like mosquitoes waiting to suck the life and innocence from of our children.

Let’s not let them.

You can view a short clip of this show online at Click on News and Dateline and go to the show titled “Dateline investigates sexual predators.”

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