Quad City conference helps to tackle internet predators

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The latest case involves a Nebraska man, 29, trying to entice a supposed 13-year-old Clinton girl. Turns out, he was actually chatting with an investigator.

That police work is helping to nab internet predators before they strike. It's part of the solution to high-tech child abuse.

Keyboard clicks come from any location. Produced by anybody with internet access, they defy description. Sexual predators using the internet to prey on minors. It's why law enforcement is stepping up the investigations.

"They have been very creative," said Dr. David Finkelhor. "They've caught offenders at earlier stages of their cycle."

Speaking before nearly 200 participants at the Child Abuse Council's annual conference on Thursday, Dr. Finkelhor is one of the nation's leading researchers on child sexual abuse.

"They've produced evidence that has really made it a lot easier to charge and convict," he said.

On-line predators are in for a surprise in Clinton County. They're not chatting with an underage girl. It's really a deputy sheriff. That led to about a half-dozen arrests over a year.

"I basically just go into a chatroom, sit back and wait for people to initiate contact with me," said Deputy Jessup Schroeder.

These prevention techniques are making tremendous progress in stopping abuse before it happens. Catching predators, it seems, takes a blend of technololgy and common sense.

"We also need to ramp up prevention education," said Sue Swisher, executive director of the Child Abuse Council. "Arming kids with the information to know how to protect themselves. Helping parents know how to protect their children, how to appropriately use and surf the internet."

One click at a time, it's keeping kids safe.

"It is a crime and can get a person in a lot of trouble if they're an adult having a sexual relationship with a teenager," concluded Dr. Finkelhor.