Trends in arrests of “online predators”

  • Wolak J
  • Finkelhor D
  • Mitchell K
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Abstract

Publicity about “online predators”* – sex offenders who use the Internet to meet juvenile victims – has raised considerable alarm about the extent to which Internet use may be putting children and adolescents at risk for sexual abuse and exploitation. Media stories and Internet safety messages have raised fears by describing violent offenders who use the Internet to prey on naïve children by tricking them into face‐to‐face meetings or tracking them down through information posted online. Law enforcement has mobilized on a number of fronts, setting up task forces to identify and prosecute online predators, developing undercover operations, and urging social networking sites to protect young users. Unfortunately, however, reliable information on the scope and nature of the online predator problem remains scarce. Established criminal justice data collection systems do not gather detailed data on such crimes that could help inform public policy and education. To remedy this information vacuum, the Crimes against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire conducted two waves of a longitudinal study, the National Juvenile Online Victimization (N‐JOV) Study. This research collected data from a national sample of law enforcement agencies about crimes by online predators during two 12 month periods–July 1, 2000 through June 30, 2001 (Wave 1) and calendar year 2006 (Wave 2). This study is the only systematic research that examines the number of arrests of these offenders, the characteristics of their crimes, and the scope of related law enforcement activity.

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Authors

  • Janis Wolak

  • D Finkelhor

  • K Mitchell

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