N.C. sets tighter trap for Internet predators

Undercover officers will train to pose as kids


Child molesters prowling for victims on the Internet will soon stand a
greater chance of running into undercover officers.

A new N.C. law, combined with a ramped-up police training program, will
bring tougher penalties and higher numbers of undercover officers onto
the Internet. The officers will pose as children to trap predators.

In January, the first dozen officers will enroll in state-sponsored
classes to learn how to catch child predators on the Internet. More than
60 officers are scheduled to receive the training by May, the N.C.
Attorney General’s Office said.

The effort comes in the wake of a new law making it a felony, rather than
a misdemeanor, to proposition an undercover police officer posing as a
child on the Internet. The law went into effect Dec. 1.

Attorney General Roy Cooper has sent a letter to sheriffs and police
chiefs across the state asking them to take advantage by sending officers
to the classes.

Cooper said more than 500 cases of child sexual exploitation were
reported in N.C. last year. In 2001, only 11 such incidents were
reported, reports the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

The State Bureau of Investigation isn’t aware of any arrests under the
new law, but the agency is working cases using the law, authorities said.

The Cleveland County Sheriff’s Office last month arrested a man from
Maine after a deputy posing as a 14-year-old girl spent seven months
talking to him online. The man has a court date in mid-January, records
show. His arrest predates the new law.

Charlotte Mecklenburg police this year have been building an in-house
Internet crimes unit. Several detectives and supervisors have already
been trained, said Capt. Bruce Bellamy, and more will be trained.
© 2005 Charlotte Observe

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