A sex crimes investigator is offering an inside look at how they catch online predators.
In the last couple of months, more than a dozen men across the state have been arrested on charges of trying to arrange sex with minors online.
The Pinal County Sheriff’s Office has a detective dedicated to sex crimes, and he says your child can easily become a target.
“They start out with, ‘Hey, how you doing?’” says Det. Randall Snyder with PCSO. “Then after that, it’s fairly quick. They ask if you want to roleplay or go on-cam, or on camera.”
Snyder says any conversation can quickly get graphic, and some predators don’t waste any time trying to arrange a meeting with an underage child.
“Some individuals are a little bit more willing than others to jump right in. Some are a little bit more cautious,” says Snyder. “But we’ve had a couple investigations recently wherein as little as two hours the individual has gone from the first contact on an application to actually showing up at a meet site where they were taken into custody.”
Just last month, the Pinal County Sheriff’s Office arrested a Las Vegas man accused of using a social media app to lure a Phoenix-area child. That child was really Det. Snyder.
He says predators will hit on any profile that looks like it belongs to your average teen. In most cases, Snyder says, the predators come to him.
“I would say about 98 percent of them, they seek me out,” says Snyder. “We’re not going to lead them down that road. We’re going to let them lead us.”
Snyder says even platforms meant for kids are not safe.
“The chat rooms I frequent typically have age restrictions of 13 to 16,” says Snyder. “Within 10 to 15 minutes, in most cases, I can have a 40- to 50-year-old guy chatting me up, wanting to talk about sex, sending me nude pictures.”
Snyder admits it’s difficult to keep up with new apps. He encourages parents to look at their child’s phone, see what apps they are using, and then research them. He says the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children is a good resource for parents.