Fort Gibson Police going after on-line sexual predators

Tuesday, July 23rd 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

A 22-year-old Okmulgee man was arrested in Muskogee on July 3rd when he tried to arrange a meeting to have sex with a 13-year-old girl he met online. That teenage girl turned out to be a Fort Gibson undercover police officer.

It's just one of a dozen arrests Fort Gibson Police have made since starting a program a year ago to catch online sex predators. News on Six reporter Patrina Adger has the story.

Deputy Chief Lannie Edwards says police have arrested a dozen men from around the world who've attempted to lure young girls into having sex. The latest was a 37-year-old man who traveled from England to Fort Gibson, Oklahoma to be with a thirteen-year-old girl after having an online relationship with her for five months. "He wanted to meet with her friend and the friends younger sister for the purpose of having sex with them. When he was arrested he realized he wasn't meeting a thirteen year old female." Instead, it was an undercover officer with Fort Gibson's police department working child exploitation cases online.

Edwards says the officer created a bogus profile to catch sex predators. But he says once the "teen" enters a chat room, it doesn't take long for the perpetrators to take the bait. "They pretty much will try to find out if this child has a current boyfriend, and rolls the conversation into really strong sexual overtones really quick." "Edwards says the men they've arrested in these sex crimes range in age from 21 to 50, but the girls they seek out are as young as 10 years old."

He says some of the men have a history of being child molesters and some are on the state's sex offender list. "There's a lot of X-rated stuff on the Internet and parents need to be aware of what is out there and who their kids are talking to."

Edwards says those convicted of sex crimes face state and federal charges and could spend up to five years in jail. And by Oklahoma law, they're also required to register as a sex offender.