Online 'Predator' Investigations in Oklahoma

The Canadian County Sheriff's Office recently announced that deputies have arrested yet another man in an internet sting intended to catch child predators. This time, the arrestee is a former law enforcement officer currently working as an armed security guard.

Deputies arrested Joshua Davis, 38, after they say he struck up a sexual conversation with a deputy posing online as a 13-year-old girl. Davis is accused of arranging to meet the girl for sex, and deputies arrested him as he arrived at the designated meeting place near SW 15th and Mustang Road in Yukon. The man was charged with one count of soliciting sexual conduct or communication with a minor by use of technology and one count of possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony. The gun charge was added because Davis allegedly showed up to the meeting place wearing his security guard uniform, including a bullet-proof vest and his firearm.

If you have been paying attention to these "child predator" arrests lately, you have likely noticed that a great number of the arrests have been made by the Canadian County Sheriff's Office. The deputies seem to have a thriving online investigation department in which an undercover deputy poses online as an underage girl and engages with adults in sexual conversation. Last year, it seemed that most of this type of arrest was conducted by the Guthrie police department.

How are these "online stings" conducted, who is behind them, and what is the purpose of lurking online "to catch a predator?"

Typically, an internet child predator sting occurs when a law enforcement agent creates a fake social media profile posing as a minor. Theoretically, the deputy awaits contact from adults who begin chatting with the "minor," and the topic of sex does not come up unless the adult brings it up. Thus, these operations ideally ferret out child predators who peruse the internet looking for victims.

However, there have been several cases in which a suspect attempts to leave a conversation once he or she realizes that the person on the other end of the chat is a "minor," and the decoy pursues. There have been other cases in which the decoy actually instigates the sexual communication. In these cases, the sting has been conducted illegally and the "suspect" is in fact a victim of entrapment.

Many of these investigation are conducted by local ICAC task forces. The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program (ICAC) is an initiative of the federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention. The ICAC program is intended to "help state and local law enforcement agencies develop an effective response to technology-facilitated child sexual exploitation and Internet crimes against children." Nationally, there are 61 local ICAC task forces comprised of more than 3,500 state and local law enforcement agencies and district attorneys' offices. The ICAC task force program provides specialized training and equipment to uncover and investigate the online sexual exploitation of minors.

Although the purpose of the task force program is to catch sex offenders, many say that the program actually creates sex offenders. This report highlights a bait and switch routine in which young men in their late teens and early 20's go into adult chat rooms to find women their own age. After chatting a while with someone they believed to be 18 or older, the men are then told that the girl is actually much younger.

One mother sent a reporter the following email, worried that her son will be convicted and branded a sex offender for life after such an incident:

"My son is currently facing charges for Internet luring he went into an adult website where the age was to be 18 he started talking back and forth with a profile seating she was 20 after a few texts back and forth he felt there was a connection and began conversations with her then at some point she stated that she was only about to turn 15 yes he should have stopped communication then, but a few more texts went and the charges came. He was not in any kind of chat room for kids gaming rooms or anything just trying to meet someone his own age which turned out to be a cop in and adult place."

Similar cases are being thrown out for entrapment, but not before mugshots are posted and reputations smeared. If you or someone you love is under arrest following an internet sex sting, it is critical to find legal representation immediately.

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