Year of Birth: 1982
Join date: September 2003
Position:Contributor/Assistant IF Coordinator
The third subject of our PeeJ Profiles feature is Wendy O'Connell. Recently tapped to aid co-administrator Del Harvey to coordinate and register law enforcement areas for Information First, Wendy has been a long-time member of the website but not a long-time contributor. Despite having many arrests, she only has one log posted so far publicly, that of the first of her arrests to become a conviction.
Recently we sat down with Wendy to get her thoughts regarding volunteering at Perverted-Justice.com, the experiences of working Group Stings, interfacing with law enforcement and how she feels about the whole experience in general.
Wendy O'Connell: I joined the PeeJ forums in September of 2003 after riding in on the Cruel.com wave. When I first visited the main PeeJ website, I expected it to contain something more along the lines of pranks - then I saw that these people posted up on the site really believed the contributors were as young as 10, 11, 12 and on up to 15 years old, and they were honestly shooting for a sexual meeting with them.
I'd honestly had no idea how prevalent the problem was and seeing PeeJ for the first time was kind of a smack over the head that I completely wasn't expecting. Having seen the effects of sexual abuse in friends and even members of my own family, I knew there was something about this website that was different. It wasn't a fly-by-night group of people aimlessly spinning their wheels, but a very concerned handful of citizens who really wanted to make a difference where the problem of online predators were concerned. In the face of all that, I kind of had to join.
Q: Obviously when you joined in September 2003, you were just another new forumite. However, you weren't made a contributor until roughly two years after joining, in late 2005. What were your thoughts when the position was offered and did you ever expect that to happen?
Wendy O'Connell: I was a little taken aback, to say the least. While I was certainly a supporter of PeeJ, I just didn't really know where my niche was or that I was really cut out for the entry level stuff that most people dive right into when they join PeeJ, especially these days. I didn't feel I had the voice for verification. HS hadn't even been created then. Intermittently, real life kind of kept stepping in and diverting my attention away from the forums.
When I came back, I was little more than a regular poster who admired a lot of the people who frequented the forums and whose company I enjoyed. So, of course, to have been approached about being a contributor after all that time was sort of surprising. However, I suppose it's just proof that merely supporting the site and its cause, being a trustworthy and straightforward member of the forums, can make a surprising impression on the administration. I never expected it to happen, but I'm very happy it did.
Q: Since being brought on, you've gotten a nice number of arrests but have only one log posted to the main page, which happened with month with the Erik Pallesen conviction. Is it hard to wait to get these logs up and is it weird to be on the forums interacting with volunteers who literally have no idea regarding the amount of work you've done as opposed to past years where logs were posted to the main page quickly?
Wendy O'Connell: It is a bit of an impatient wait to put these guys up, because I was around during a time where posting was instantaneous after the jig was up, and the contributors still revealed themselves, telling the wannabe they were soon to be outed to thousands of people. Then again, things like Dateline stings have kind of taken the place of that, and what used to be exposure to thousands of people is now exposure to literally millions, which of course is fantastic.
As far as public perception being such that I'm viewed as a newbie, despite how much work and how many arrests I've done - it's not weird or disappointing. I know what I've done, I know how many people are now in the system and off the streets because of my efforts, and that is, hands down, the most rewarding part of it. What my job lacks in instant gratification, it makes up for in longterm satisfaction. I know the delay with mainpage posting is because the judicial system is sometimes slow to roll, but at least they're all being prosecuted now. It's been kind of a realised dream of the site that a bust automatically equals deliverance into the hands of law enforcement. I can't complain about that.
Q: You mentioned the Dateline stings, which of course nearly everyone reading this will have seen or been aware of. As a contributor, how much work are those stings and do you think the public has a good idea of what goes on behind the scenes regarding what it is people like you do?
Wendy O'Connell: Dateline stings encompass a very intense quantity and quality of work. There's little room for error, patience can be limited, judgments have to be made on the fly, and the hours are often brutal. It's not easy for 40+ grown adults to play one child, at home alone, with all the time in the world to kill!
I'm not sure the public really has a total picture of what happens behind the scenes - my idea is that most of them are only truly aware of those contributors you see onscreen during the broadcast. And even after they join the website, view the staff page, see just how many volunteers we have, I don't think they're truly aware of just how much time, work, concentration, and dedication is poured into the stings by every individual contributor, and the volunteers who assist us. It's such a finely tuned and well orchestrated effort that even I'm still amazed sometimes, and I've already done four of them.
Q: How much time would you say you put into this a week?
Wendy O'Connell: I honestly have never really counted hours or punched a mental timeclock, but I'd wager right around 70 hours a week or so. There's no start time or stop time for me, really.
Q: Can you think of three of the most notable happenings you've been personally involved in, and why each sticks out in your mind?
Wendy O'Connell: The first would be when I was asked to come aboard as a contributor, just because it really was a surprise to me and, had that never happened, all other experiences would probably have never happened. The second would be watching the Riverside Dateline sting for the first time, which was my first go-around as far as the beast that is the Group Media Bust. Never, that I can remember, have I worked that hard with so many other people, and had that work produce such a staggering, successful result (as over 50 arrests is a pretty awe-inspiring number).
The third was my invitation to help out at the Dateline house in Georgia, and it was significant for so many different reasons. I finally got to meet a few of the people with whom I've worked for a while but had never had the pleasure of talking to face to face. Being involved with the other side of the GMB, seeing the real guts of the operation inside the house, how well organised and focused everyone is - there are just way too many memorable aspects of that than I can list.
Q: Is there anything about police in general that has surprised you stemming from your position as an assistant Information First coordinator?
Wendy O'Connell: Indeed. I was surprised that so many are really concerned about the problem of online predators but, unfortunately, have so few resources, financial backing, and training to really dive in head first. I'm also surprised at just how much they appreciate PeeJ. Every LE agent who has ever contacted me seems genuinely appreciative of our efforts, and I'm always pleasantly surprised at the nice things they have to say about us.
Q: You've been with the site long enough to see and hear all the various misconceptions levied against it, which misconception really sticks out to you and what's your response to it?
Wendy O'Connell: By a country mile, the misconception that we don't work with law enforcement. First of all, that's how at least half to three-quarters of my day is spent, answering emails and taking calls from law enforcement who wish to work with us to get predators in their respective areas out of the chatrooms. We have the convictions on the front page, as well as overstuffed email boxes for both myself and my supervisor, Del Harvey, to prove that we do indeed cooperate fully with law enforcement.
Q: What are your personal goals for the future when it comes to your volunteership to Perverted-Justice.com?
Wendy O'Connell: In all honesty? To put us out of business, as odd as it sounds. As much as I absolutely love my work here, I'd really love nothing more than to see parents so effectively doing their jobs in tandem with us that predators don't have the first clue which profiles are real children and which are us, and therefore are far too scared to use the internet as their anonymous playground.
Judging from what I've seen thus far, it probably won't happen anytime soon, and for now, my goals are simply to reach every law enforcement agency possible in the United States and garner Information First agreements that span from coast to coast - ensuring that no predator is safe from prosecution for their crimes. I'd also love to see us eventually go abroad to other countries where I'm sure the problem is just as, if not more, prevalent.
Q: Lastly, is there anything you want to mention that people may not know about the website, you, or a message in general for people reading this?
Wendy O'Connell: While respect for the proper authorities is important, and is our utmost concern here as well, sometimes people can't wait for their authorities or their governments to protect them completely. We, as American citiziens, are so lucky to live in a country where we can have a voice in our own protection and the protection of those we love and care about. Perverted-Justice.com, to me, is an embodiment of that ideal.
There is nothing wrong with citizens who are willing to mobilise against a threat to our communities and our children. We haven't taken over for the authorities - we've simply brought a problem to their attention and helped them put an end to it. As long as I have the capability to do so, I will continue in that effort with the knowledge that I'm doing what's right. I hope everyone else who comes to us, wanting to pitch in and help, will do the same.
Number of predators convicted due to
Perverted-Justice.com since June 2004:
Chatlog Convictions: 622
Research Convictions: 1
Perverted-Justice.com since June 2004:
Chatlog Convictions: 622
Research Convictions: 1
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