I have already submitted a couple of articles about the dangers the internet holds for children. My next series of articles will be about the various citizen groups and law enforcement agencies that work to deter or stop predators and keep children safe online.
The first group I want to cover is a group called Perverted Justice. Their “nickname”, or what they are also known as is PeeJ. Perverted Justice is a citizen group that was set up for the purpose of identifying adults willing to have chat room sexual encounters with minors. Millions of Americans have seen this group in action during the operation series called “To Catch a Predator” that Dateline NBC carried out on the air.
The people who make up Perverted Justice are volunteers. These volunteers carry out sting operations, using “young” sounding screen names, such as sara_so_bored. They then wait for older men to approach them in chatrooms. The volunteers of PeeJ do not make the first contact with the adults, but instead wait to be approached.
Once the men approach the volunteer (who they think is a young teen girl or boy), the volunteer works to get identifying information from the men; information such as a phone number. This information is usually given during talk about setting up an offline meeting with the perceived minor. The PeeJ volunteer then uses a Reverse Look Up service to find out the name of the person who owns the telephone number, and passes the information on to law enforcement.
Perverted Justice was started in 2002 by Xavier Von Erck of Portland Oregon, who got the idea after watching men attempt to woo young girls in chatrooms in Oregon. Von Erck says that PeeJ is a computer watchdog agency that works closely with law enforcement. During the ‘To Catch a Predator’ stings put on by Dateline NBC, Perverted Justice was actually temporarily deputized by law enforcement, since some of the operation was required by law to have been carried out by members of law enforcement.
Von Erck goes on to say that “The media likes to use the term vigilante because it gets attention, but we don’t consider ourselves vigilantes. We cultivate cooperation with police and work within the law to get justice, not outside of the law.”
Perverted Justice’s volunteers act as bait in chatrooms where children and minors can often be found. The profiles the volunteers set up have youthful sounding nicknames and often pictures of children. The volunteers do not initiate contact with the men, but instead wait for the men to first come to them. They refuse to act on tips from internet users, to avoid the risk that someone might use the website for purposes of revenge.
If a man starts chatting with the volunteer and turns the conversation toward sex, the volunteer attempts to obtain identifying information from the man; information such as a telephone number so that a “meeting can be arranged”.
In years past, the chatlog and details would then be published on Perverted Justice’s website. However, beginning in 2003, the organization began its “Information First” program, in which interested police departments could contact Perverted Justice, and any busts made within the jurisdiction of that department would be sent to them without having been posted to the website.
In the early days, PeeJ did not initiate contact with the police, due to the difficulty of prosecuting online criminals in a court of law. Because the law has evolved in such a way that law enforcement now CAN and regularly DOES prosecute online criminals, PeeJ has switched to a policy of cold calling local police with the information they obtained. If a one of the government agencies is interested (police, FBI, military CID, etc.) then the chatlog and other information is not posted to the site until after a conviction has been reached.
To date, Perverted Justice has been responsible for over 100 convictions of online predators. Some of those convictions were witnessed by television-watching Americans, glued to their T.V. screens during the airing of Dateline NBC’s To Catch a Predator series. One of these “public convictions” was a rabbi, who entered a home with the intention of having sexual relations with a minor boy. The “candid-camera” photograph of this rabbi as he was caught by Dateline NBC is posted on my website, which is dedicated to keeping kids safe online.
My website is interactive and includes a place for parents, educators, and interested parties to post methods of keeping kids safe online, as well as a message board where people can chat about online safety and what can be done. I have a page that shows Internet Safety in the news, as well as a page dedicated to educating parents on what can be done to “keep your kid safe on the internet”. Everyone is welcome.