In some of the most violent and notorious prisons in America, full of criminals, the pedophile is reviled among all. Human trafficking is a very lucrative business for criminal enterprises across the globe. People who choose to go pedophile hunting can find themselves in a dangerous world. The demand for children for these pedophiles is sadly a very real and significant problem.
Many convicted pedophiles find themselves at the business end of a shiv (an improvised sharp weapon) or routine beatings and assaults of various natures. Every society has subcultures or criminal elements that defy the morals and standards of the greater society. In America, adults seeking to conduct sexual acts upon children are considered the lowest of the low.
Pedophile Hunting is a Dangerous Game
Unfortunately, pedophilia has long been around in America and different parts of the world. Certain cultures around the globe (I can’t say where for fear of demonizing said culture and thereby being canceled) have practices that make young children the property of local chieftains for sexual purposes. While under deployment and tasked with winning hearts and minds, U.S. forces have sometimes found themselves at odds with supposed allies who partook in sexual assaults against minors of both genders.
Sadly, In America, there have been many sexual predators who cloaked themselves in positions of trust and power. Numerous investigations have uncovered no single mold for pedophiles; they come from all backgrounds, socioeconomic groups, races, religions, and ages.
The evening news highlights the scandals of teachers sleeping with their underage students, coaches with their athletes, and scoutmasters with their scouts. Investigative news programs began looking deeper into the issue as incidents of adults exploiting minors started to bombard the American consciousness.
To Catch a Predator
A popular television show from 2004 to 2007 called To Catch a Predator. Through internet chat rooms, forums, and dark web websites, predators were baited into contacting underage boys or girls for sexual rendezvous. After speaking on the phone with a believable-sounding minor, a predator would agree to meet the “underage” child and often bring alcohol, drugs, and sometimes equipment to photograph or record the whole exchange.
When the predator walked into the house or agreed on a meeting place, he was met by show host Chris Hansen, a film crew, and police officers. Supporting the To Catch a Predator team was the organization Perverted Justice, which acted as the online and in-person decoys. Lawyers, doctors, truck drivers, soldiers, clergy, and even the occasional police officer were busted in these made-for-TV stings.
Pedophile hunting, for better or worse, has often been like the United States’ war on drugs. Still, hopefully, authorities will ultimately be far more successful in stopping predators than they were at stopping drugs. Much like with narcotics stings, it is easiest to target the “end user” or the individual pedophile. Sometimes, a pedophile’s online behavior tips off authorities by the nature of the imagery, comments, and connections a suspect presents online.
Child Trafficking Online
For example, if a 45-year-old named “Martin” has a bunch of 10- to 14-year-olds as friends on an online gaming app catering to kids, this may be a big red flag, and perhaps someone will notice and alert authorities. Next, a hypothetical profile may appear on this chatroom or another platform associated with the online game. Martin may feel compelled to start an online correspondence because the cute and innocent profile picture draws him in.
Mild banter may ensue, followed by the exchange of innocent pictures and more racy pictures, ultimately leading to a phone call between Martin and the target of his online affections. This “target” will legitimately sound like a curious and trusting minor on the phone, and Martin’s intended victim will mention that her parents will be away the following week. Martin will then make travel plans to meet for sex with whom he believes to be an underage female.
Upon arrival at his supposed victim’s home, however, Martin is met by police officers in raid jackets and a cold pair of handcuffs. Authorities pat themselves on the back in the knowledge that a pedophile has been taken off the streets, but just as with the drug war, all involved know that Martin is only one of thousands of others looking to prey upon young children.
A Dangerous Cat and Mouse Game
The sad fact is that sexual predators targeting children are but one slice of a much larger criminal pie. Some people trade child pornography—pictures, videos, and literature—with others across the globe. However, this segment does not necessarily include the sick individuals who actually take the photos and videos and engage with the children.
For every predator caught in a sting, countless others are consuming child porn. Criminals producing child porn, numerous web admins hosting it, and an almost endless number of websites and forums on the dark web for distribution purposes.
Regional and global sex traffickers also know there is a market for people wanting sex with children, and they are all too willing to supply them to pedophiles. Many of these minors are coaxed into running away from home. Some are abducted, or, in many cases, these underage victims are smuggled into America.
Pedophile Hunting on the Big Screen
The movie Taken wasn’t too far off the mark in terms of exposing that there are global sex trafficking rings. As it also happens, there are a number of people ready to stop them.
Unlike the war on drugs, hunting pedophiles is an endeavor that has multiple players. Mostly government-funded nonprofits to private-sector vigilante groups, each with various approaches to stopping predators.
Child Rescue Services
The HERO (Human Exploitation Rescue Operative) Child-Rescue Corps is a U.S.-government-backed program developed by the National Association to Protect Children in partnership with Homeland Security Investigations and the U.S. Special Operations Command. Wounded special-operations veterans are given 11 weeks of intense cyber forensics training and 10 months of field training. Then, they are given a new mission—to hunt down pedophiles and online predators. When necessary, arrests are made with cooperating law enforcement agencies across the globe.
Bruce Ladebu founded the Children’s Rescue Initiative (CRI). They rescue, return, and restore children and adults caught in this horrible trade. To date, 2,300 victims have been rescued by the organization.
DeliverFund, founded and managed by former special operator and CIA special agent Nic McKinley, applies numerous investigative and tactical targeting techniques that McKinley learned in the service of his government and focuses those capabilities on identifying and stopping child sex traffickers. DeliverFund equips law enforcement with training and software to prevent sex trafficking operations.
Government Human Trafficking Agencies
The Anti-Human Trafficking Intelligence Initiative (ATII), founded by Aaron Kahler, uses open-source intelligence (OSINT), web intelligence (WEBINT), and advanced forensic cyber-investigative techniques to follow the money, cellphone pings, online images, and other digital breadcrumbs associated with human and child sex trafficking.
ATII, like some of the other organizations mentioned above, alerts law enforcement to suspicious online behavior. Often, banks, websites, online message boards, airlines, and ride-share companies are alerted by firms like ATII.
There is also a gray and murky side to the pedophile-hunting business. With the success of “gotcha”-style shows, “online vigilantes” have emerged who seek to catch predators similarly. In many cases, natural predators have been exposed, including a chief of police caught on video in the act.
Best Left to the Professionals
In other instances, the self-proclaimed pedo-hunters are seeking notoriety. Selling shirts and merchandise online helps their followers feel like part of the team, as well as paying their rent.
Occasionally, however, the wrong person is “outed” as a sex predator due to poor investigative techniques. One individual committed suicide due to the enormous legal fees and public humiliation. Clearly, information from private citizens is extremely valuable in the fight against sex trafficking. Still, actual enforcement and prosecution are best left to the professional organizations specializing in this type of activity.
Conspiracy Theories and Hollywood
Sadly, we have also seen the issue of sex trafficking become politicized. Just Google “Pizzagate” for an example of this. Any rational person will scoff at the notion that celebrities are secret pedophiles. Yet there is Jeffrey Epstein, who may or may not have killed himself in prison.
Pedophilia and child sex trafficking are global and reflect the worst of humanity. Thankfully, government agencies and legitimate private initiatives are taking the fight to the traffickers and predators.
Finally, prevention is also up to us. Together we can all shine a protective light onto our loved ones so the darkness doesn’t swallow them up.
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