When “Chrissy,” a 13-year-old girl from Huntsville, entered the “Texas” Yahoo! chatroom, she sat there and did nothing. She didn’t send any messages and pretty much kept silent, at first.

In a matter of minutes, “Texasguy” sent her a message, poking fun of her young age, but the conversation didn’t end there. Just a few responses later, “Texasguy” was asking her about her experience with sex, looking for details about what she had done and what has been done to her.

Luckily, this was not a real 13-year-old being subjected to the explicit conversation, but Huntsville Police Department Detective Slavin Richards, who investigates Internet crimes for HPD along with his partner Jerry Meadors.

The two detectives put together a presentation Thursday night at Mance Park Middle School for parents with questions about how safe it is for their children to be using these services.

Only a few parents showed up for the presentation, but those who did were faced with the harsh reality of cyberspace.

The presentation began with a video of Julie, a victim of sexual assault that began online, telling her story. To protect her identity, animated graphics were used instead of showing her face, but the words were loud and clear.

She began talking to what she believed to be a man of her age. In reality, this man was in his 50s and a convicted murderer. The two developed a close Internet relationship, and he convinced Julie to come with him to Reno, Nev. Julie was assaulted numerous times before the man’s vehicle was spotted.

One of the scary things Meadors noticed in Julie’s case, as well as in many of the chats he and Richards have done undercover, is how controlling these predators are of their “property.”

“”He said right off the bat that he started manipulating her in their chats,” Meadors said. “When she was away from the computer and she came back on, he’d ask ‘Where have you been? Where were you at? Why weren’t you on the computer talking to me?’ To him, she is already his. She is his property, and he wants to know where his girlfriend is and who she’s talking to.”

Meadors said in addition to just looking for the sex act itself, the predators will bring cameras with them to capture a “trophy” of sorts. With these photographs captured of their encounters with children, these people get much more than just a personal arousal. In many cases, he said, they will use it to blackmail their victims to ensure future encounters or use them to convince new victims that this activity is “normal.”

They also will trade with other predators or sell and distribute them online.

Meadors said the number of children falling prey to these predators is alarming.

“More than 20,000 pictures of child pornography are posted on the Internet every week, and more than half of the illegal sites are hosted in the United States,” Meadors said. “Approximately 20 new children appear on porn sites every month. The revenue is between $200 million and $1 billion a year.

“One out of five children in chat rooms has been approached by a pedophile, but I think it’s more than that. Eighty-nine percent of sexual solicitations were made either in a chat room or instant messenger. Only 25 percent of the students who received sexual solicitations on line told their parents.”

Meadors believes the biggest factor in 75 percent not saying anything is that they are having a good time on the computer. They may be doing nothing wrong on the Internet and do not want to lose any privileges because someone approaches them with bad intentions.

Although the Internet can be a dangerous place, Meadors said there are measures children can take to keep themselves safe on the computer.

“Do not give out personal information, such as your address, telephone number, name, school or hobbies. You don’t need to list that stuff,” Meadors said. “All that is, is things for these guys to talk to them about.”

Trending Video