Recently we did a sting in Murphy, Texas. The Murphy sting netted an active school teacher of 23 years, a retired law enforcement official 63 years old, an active assistant district attorney in charge of prosecuting cases, and all manner in-between. There's 21 men that will tomorrow, not be free to try to molest children or to actually succeed in doing so. You would think to yourself... "Who could be against that?"
In our years of doing what we do, exposing and catching internet sex predators, we've had to deal with a lot of criticisms by uninformed people. Hey, it comes with the territory. Anyone in the public eye is going to have people that attack them. However, there is one criticism that ranks perhaps most foul, most odious and most ignorant. That criticism being the reaction of some short-sighted citizens in wealthy suburbs to our sting operations. If we sound particularly acidic, it's for good reason.
The epidemic of internet sex predators stretches across all boundaries. No matter if you're rich, poor or in-between, predators will attempt to prey on your kids. Internet predators have struck rural areas to wealthy areas. Examples? Hell, we have too many of them.
In 2002, a 13 year old Catholic school student Christina Long was lured by an internet predator. His name was Saul Dos Reis. He would have sex with the girl before strangling her to death and dumping her body in a remote ravine. This didn't happen in Compton, California. It didn't happen in Gary, Indiana. It didn't happen in America's ghettos, slums or "Just plain poor areas." It happened in Danbury, Connecticut. The body was found in Greenwich, Connecticut. Two nice towns. Two nice places to live.
In 2005, we were hit upon by internet predator Ron Rivera. He lived in Suffolk County, New York. A pretty nice county, indeed. Rivera ran a "freshwater fishing boat" called Bandit: The Ultimate Predator. He would advertise to his immediate area for 10-13 year old boys to man his "fishing boat" for trips across a nearby lake. Rivera though was active online, meeting and travelling to Bismarck, North Dakota in order to sexually assault a thirteen year old boy, whom he would later use in order to try to lure our decoy profile. Nobody in Bismarck knew it happened other than the boy himself. Two nice towns. Two nice places to live.
In 2006, we were hit upon by internet predator Stephen R. Deck. He arrived at a pretty nice town, Laguna Beach California to have sex with what he thought was a minor. Deck was hardened internet predator... he was also a California Highway Patrolman. Lastly... he also had already successfully groomed an eleven year old girl online and molested her. Nobody had known until after he was arrested... in a nice town, in a nice place to live.
In 2005, we were hit upon a man named William Corbett in Tucson, Arizona. Corbett used the internet to try to lure our decoy into sexual relations. Tucson is a pretty nice town, Corbett lived in a really nice part of it. After Corbett was arrested and featured on his local news, they started getting calls. Many calls, in fact, stating that Corbett had molested offline victims. Eventually convicted for molesting a younger relative, for his chat with our decoy and for sending child pornography, Corbett will likely never see the outside world again.
And there are other stories, many stories from across the country. Rich, poor, rural or city, internet predators will strike. It doesn't matter if it's Bismarck, Danbury, Greenwich or say, Murphy, Texas. As site readers know, we recently conducted a sting in Murphy, Texas where 21 predators arrived at the house. Still more are being arrested. However, that doesn't sit well with some people... some people that might surprise you, as they live in Murphy, Texas themselves.
Usually we don't "pick on" citizens like this, however we're more than a little annoyed in this instance. Why? Because these people are saying some godawful stupid things that simply shouldn't stand without some sort of public correction.
Examples from a recent news story covering the Murphy sting include:
“They’re solving a problem we don’t have” - Colleen Halbert.
“How do you tell a 6-year-old why he can’t play outside? You come to a nice neighborhood like this, you don’t expect to have to deal with something like this.” - Michael Smith
And, most notably, a man who should really know better... Murphy Mayor Bret Baldwin.
“We’re going to do whatever we need to do to make sure this doesn’t continue, I think it’s a noble cause, but our police department is hired to serve and protect our citizens, and not to expose them to outside threats.” - Mayor Bret Baldwin
The idea that internet predators are not everyone's problem is amusing to us. It is such an ignorant statement on every level that it's almost hard to comprehend it coming out of the mouth of a living, breathing human being. There is not an area in this country where an internet predator will not travel. If Michael Smith's six year old grows up to be twelve, gets online... guess what? Predators will want to speak with him. They'll want to travel there and molest him. But when that kid potentially says "Murphy, Texas", those predators will think "Oh shit, those cops arrest guys like me." It does not matter to a predator if you live in a "nice area" where "things like this shouldn't happen." What matters to a predator is that there is a target in that area, an underage target for them to have sex with. The only town without this problem is a town with no children.
The idea that Murphy, Texas doesn't have this problem is again, amusing to us. Murphy, Texas has this problem. What stops this problem from hitting a real kid and not one of our decoys is not the idea that predators won't go to Murphy... but that we're out there taking them off the internet. Predators will go to Murphy, Texas, just as they've gone to every single location we've ever set up in. For a Colleen Halbert to think her town doesn't have that problem is pure ignorance. We've shown now, 25 different times, that internet predators will target kids in Murphy, Texas just as they would anywhere else. Where does a person like Colleen Halbert think internet predators should go? Amarillo? That damn Waco? San Antonio? Ridiculous. It's sad that someone like Colleen Halbert is more concerned about her property value than maintaining a safe city.
The idea that an elected official would think that he should interfere in police doing their jobs is... well, not amusing to us. Mayor Bret Baldwin's comments are stated bereft of any knowledge of the problem of internet predators. It is obvious from his verbiage that this man has no experience working on such cases. The predators going to Murphy were not going to look for some random child, they were going to look for a very specific child. The child they thought they were talking to online. Online predators are not "random abductors" who will enter a town and randomly grab a kid rather than meet the kid they've already spoken with. Internet predators have a very specific target, the child they think is awaiting them at the aforementioned house. The idea that this man seeks to protect his constituency from an "outside threat" is laughable. What he is actually doing is trying to make his town an attractive target for said "outside threats."
With public statements like his, he is putting internet predators on notice... just the wrong kind of notice. By threatening his own police force and saying he doesn't want stings to continue in his town, he is telling predators... "Hey, kid says he is from Murphy, Texas? Come molest them!" The issue of online predators is epidemic. If they know a town is inviting to them, they'll go to that town. If they know a town is proactive in fighting their attempts to molest children, they won't go to that town. Consider the example of Xenia, Ohio... their cybercrimes department has taken the same flack from the same ignorant types. However when we did our Darke County, Ohio sting... that was a question on the lips of those that showed up. One even brazenly said "Oh you're not from Xenia." Why? Because they know that Xenia is aggressive against them.
Predators now know that Murphy is the Texas version of Xenia. By completing our first large-scale sting there (The Mayor wrongly believes that this is the second Dateline sting there, in truth, it's the first) predators are put on notice that the good men of the Murphy Police Department are aggressive and strong against this epidemic. That there will be no Christina Long in Murphy, Texas under their watch. It is unfortunate that an ignorant politician would seek to remove the air of danger for internet predators from his town, but then again, he is an ignorant politician.
Our goal? No more Christina Long cases in this world. No more kids sexually assaulted by internet predators. To make internet predators so scared that they won't make that step from behind the computer to your home when you're not there. We will work in suburbs, farmland, cities and slums to make this happen, to make predators fear every kind of landscape and socio-economic class. Even in the face of ignorance, even in the face of unrealistic sentiment by people out of touch with society, even in the face of stupid bellicose statements by soundbite-hungry politicians.
As a lasting note for readers, one of the individuals arrested in the sting that will be featured on Dateline NBC lives in Murphy, Texas. He hit us up from Murphy, Texas. He solicited a child and has been arrested because he went to... his own town of Murphy, Texas. Once convicted, he will be on the Texas sex offender registry with an address of Murphy, Texas. A problem that doesn't exist there? Of course it exists there. Two others came from Plano, Texas. Plano is connected to Murphy, Texas.
Of course, they weren't the only ones. Another individual hit on us sexually but couldn't make the time that weekend that lives in Murphy, Texas. The police are planning to arrest him... well, unless Mayor Bret Baldwin has his way. Because if Murphy Mayor Bret Baldwin has his way, these arrests won't continue and this known sexual predator will be free to live in Murphy, unknown, walking side by side with Murphy's children... undetected. After all, it's not "Murphy's problem"... right?
At the end of the day, the only thing left for our organization to debate is this... Which are worse, the predators out there trying to rape children they befriend online? Or ignorant elitists who enable their attempts by trying to stop law enforcement from dealing with this issue?
Damn both equally.
Do you think the Murphy City Council and Mayor are on the wrong side of this issue? Of course you do. Hit them up at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com and let them know in a reasonable way how much you appreciate the Murphy Police and their proactive stance against internet predators. If you live in Texas, especially let them know how much you appreciate the professional and proactive nature of the Murphy Police. If you'd like to thank the Murphy Police themselves, email firstname.lastname@example.org with your letters of appreciation.
Update: We've written a companion piece entitled "Welcome to the quotes of Bizarro, Texas" due to the reaction of a minority of citizens in Murphy to the sting. You won't believe some of what you'll read and some of the lies a local politician is throwing out there to try to feed their reaction.