There are several things that strike me as incredible from the most recent Florida online sex sting.
(1) People still fall for this BS! Honestly, after decades of police pulling the same scam, unless you’ve been under a rock for 20 years, you have to know that the only minors trying to meet up with adults on Craigslist are police officers! Even Dateline’s “To Catch a Predator” got played out after a dozen years.
(2) The Walton County sting took five (5) days and according to this article; “Walton County Sheriff’s Office hosted the operation with help of area agencies including Panama City Beach Police, Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office, Pensacola Police Department, Gulf Breeze Police Department and other Florida agencies including Gainesville Police Department, Tallahassee Police Department, Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.” Eight (8) men were arrested. WHAT?!?!?!? The operation took five days and involved ten (yes, 10) law enforcement agencies and they only arrested eight people? You need to wonder whether the resources spent entrapping people could have been better spent protecting real children, rather than fictitious ones.
(3) These sites where the alleged predators were caught, are all sites whose terms and conditions expressly require users to be over 18, so the presumption is that anyone they are seeking to meet would be an adult. Craigslist, the most common site of stings, contains a separate disclaimer before you can even click on the personal ads, that says, “By clicking the link below you confirm that you are 18 or older and understand personals may include adult content.”. If ten law enforcement agencies only caught eight people in 5 days, clearly these sites are not a playground for pedophiles, so it’s really unlikely that any of these men went to the site with the intention of finding children.
(4) Sheriffs are very quick to issue press releases outing the people they arrested, but not so open about the conviction rates. A report from Florida News Station, WTFV, found the results of a Volusia County sting “[t]wo years after the arrests, one case is still pending
and 15 men were convicted of a sex crime, but seven either had their charges dropped or were convicted of lesser, non-sex crimes” and a similar sting in Orange County, “31 men were arrested: six men still have cases pending, 16 were convicted of a sex crime, and nine either had their charges dropped or were convicted of lesser charges that did not carry the sex offender registry.” Most will take a plea, rather than risk substantial time and embarrassment, but of the ones that fight the charges, in too many cases courts are finding that these people had no intention of soliciting a child and but for the actions of law enforcement, no “crime” was in danger of being committed.
These stings make great headlines for law enforcement agencies and create easy fishing for them to seize property, even when no charges are brought. But, in reality, there is very little return on the law enforcement investment. At a time where the State of Florida has a backlog of over ten thousand rape kits that have not been tested and we are scrambling for ways to protect children from mass-shootings in their schools, the most incredible thing to me is that the public is not more outraged by these stings… er, scams!