By Rebecca Everett | For NJ.com |
It might be via social media, on an app, Xbox, or an online chat room where youth talk about their favorite video game. Pedophiles are there too, trolling for children, ready to groom them with casual conversation. It then turns to sexual talk, until they agree to meet up for sex.
But sometimes, when they arrive at the park or hotel or airport to meet the child, they are actually meeting several police officers, and out come the handcuffs.
Across New Jersey, undercover detectives are posing as children on websites, apps and other online spots, carrying out luring stings that see perpetrators arrested, and often convicted, jailed and marked as sex offenders.
Then Attorney General Christopher Porrino in 2016 announces that police are looking for more potential victims of Ethan Chandler, whom they arrested in a 2016 sting.
How it works
The detectives working on some of the most high-profile arrests are from the New Jersey State Police Digital Technology Investigations Unit in Hamilton, Mercer County.
State Police Detective Sgt. Paul Sciortino has been working to catch online predators for six years and estimates that the number of conversations he’s engaged in with adults is “in the thousands.” Much fewer end in convictions, he said.
Police that do this kind of work are trained to adhere to strict standards set by the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, or ICAC. They keep up on the latest ways predators are reaching out to children, whether its a new app or website. Then a detective comes up with a child’s backstory, creates a profile in the online community, and waits.
The detective cannot start a conversation with an adult, or it would be considered entrapment and could never result in a conviction, Sciortino said.