Miss America Goes Undercover To Catch Sex Predators

Tuesday, April 24th 2007, 5:33 pm
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ Miss America Lauren Nelson can add crime fighter to her resume. The Lawton beauty recently went undercover and participated in a sting operation targeting would-be sexual predators with police in Suffolk County, N.Y. Officers with the county's computer crimes unit created an online profile of a 14-year-old girl that included photographs of Nelson as a teenager.

``I got to chat online with the predators and made phone calls, too,'' Nelson said in a telephone interview from Atlantic City, N.J. ``The Suffolk County Police Department was there the whole time.''

The entire operation was filmed for Fox television's ``America's Most Wanted,'' which will air the segment on Saturday. Tim Motz, a spokesman for the Suffolk County Police Department, said the operation was ongoing and declined to comment Tuesday evening.

Nelson, 20, posed online as a young teen and went into chat rooms, where she said men would begin sending her instant messages asking her how old she was and where she lived.

``I would say I'm a 14-year-old female from Long Island. Sometimes they would say, 'You're too young, sorry,' which is exactly what needs to happen, but some would continue chatting.

``It would only take a matter of time before it got pretty explicit.''

Nelson then arranged to meet the men at a home in Long Island, where police and camera crews were waiting.

``The story was that they knew I was 14, and I told them I was cutting school to meet with them,'' Nelson said. ``I stood outside on the porch, and I would say, 'Hi' to them and wave them inside.''

Once she entered the home with the suspect, Nelson said she left the room and police and ``America's Most Wanted'' host John Walsh confronted the suspect.

``That part was very scary, but the police were all over the place,'' Nelson said. ``I was nervous, of course, but it was a very controlled environment, very safe.''

Nelson, whose platform issue is Internet safety for children, said she was eager participate in the sting and draw attention to the dangers of the internet.

``As many as we caught on that day, there are a lot more out there,'' she said. ``It's nice to know that they were chatting with police officers and me rather than a 14- or 15-year-old girl.''