With the passage last month of the $320.5 million "Biden Bill" to create a national strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction, it’s clear the government is serious about tracking down the creepy adults who try to entice kids, often for sex—in other words, the proverbial Strangers with Candy. This week’s cover story, "Like a Virgin?" takes a look at how local law enforcement agents go after pervs who linger around the Internet, rather than the schoolyard or mall, to find their prey. A lot of the police work involves adult cops impersonating 13-year-old kids online. It’s a strange world and it nets disturbing results.
But while no one would defend so much as one 40-year-old man who entices a single prepubescent in order to get his rocks off, the question arises as to whether the online threat is overstated. Research suggests that reports of sexual abuse are on the decline and, moreover, that most underage victims of sexual abuse are assaulted by family or people known to them, not by strangers they meet online or anywhere else.
What do you think of undercover online police work? Is the Internet a new danger or a new manifestation of the same old threats? Let’s hear what you think.