Sexual predators beware - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Sexual predators beware

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February 3, 2006

Albany-- Most of you watched a stunning investigation by Dateline about sexual predators. Dozens of men were caught as they tried to meet up with a young teenager for sex. It's a pervasive problem throughout the country. Dougherty County prosecutors are trying to take the power from predators.

Those predators on the Dateline special found their potential victims on the internet. But it was a trap. Dougherty County prosecutors say that same thing can happen right here and sexual crimes against children won't be tolerated.

With just the stroke of a few keys, the internet can expose a child to not only the worldwide web but a world of serious danger. "A recent study by the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children says that of 1000 children who spent significant time online, 1 in 4 was sexually solicited," says Assistant District Attorney Christopher Cohilas.

Many sexual predators are gifted at using the internet to lure vulnerable victims. "What these people are are sick predators. They essentially see something out on the internet that they want i.e a little girl or a little boy chatting online," says Cohilas.

It was when these predators got offline to meet their victims that the cameras caught them. Dougherty County Assistant District Attorney Christopher Cohilas says stings like the ones displayed on Dateline expose child predators for what they are. "For a brief second they can experience a fraction of the humiliation and the embarrassment they put the children through," says Cohilas.

Predators in Georgia aren't exempt. Throughout the state, officers are actually getting online, posing as children and allowing themselves to be solicited. "And then these officers then set up stings much like the one on Dateline and allow the sexual predators to show up, arrest them and then we go from there," says Cohilas.

Those surprise stings can happen at anytime or anyplace just like the many unfortunate crimes against children. "We do have a significant amount of cases that we handle here are very serious sexual crimes against children," says Cohilas. Cohilas says Dougherty County is ahead of many other counties when it comes to dealing with predators.

"We have here at the DA's office a Felony Child Abuse Prosecution Unit where all we handle is crimes against children," says Cohilas. In the past two years, over 80 offenders in Dougherty County have been convicted but many can't be rehabilitated.

"This is a person that has an urge and a desire that cannot be squelched," says Cohilas. Although the desires remain, law enforcement and prosecutors have a bigger desire to get them off the streets by any means necessary.

Parents can also police against online predators. You can make sure the computer is in a family area like the living room instead of a bedroom. Also, know when your child is online and pay attention to unexpected phone calls or if your child is making any long distance calls.

Albany Police has detectives dedicated to crimes against women and children. Dougherty County also has a sophisticated reporting system which allows more sexual crimes against kids to come to light. More than 60 child molestations were reported in 2005.

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