Perverted Justice, and an article about them

By | August 2, 2007

Awhile back I started watching a show on NBC called NBC Dateline: To Catch a Predator. This show is riveting – they basically set up a sting operation whereby they they create underage personas in chatrooms online, and these sick pedophiles contact them. The pedophiles then agree to come over to hook up with these underage personas to have sex with them – and the cops and cameras are waiting for them. These perverts are truly sick – and I love that theyare getting caught and busted.

I have watched many more of these episodes – they have done quite a few of them now, all over the nation, and I have learned a bit more. First, they are now done in a coordinated effort between NBC Dateline, the local law enforcement for the area where the sting is going to take place, and an internet watchdog group known as Perverted-Justice. Perverted-Justice provides the online personas and consulting and the liasons with law enforcement, and eventually they provide the evidene that is used to convict these perverts. After a bit more research I found out that they have a 100% conviction rate – pretty impressive.

As a father of five kids, I have been doing a bit more reading and research on Perverted-Justice. What they do strikes a chord with me – I have two teenage daughters, and the fact that these folks are out there busting their tails to try and deter/prevent/catch these sickos means a great deal to me. So, I have been reading up on them, both the good stuff and any detractors I can find. I must say that the bulk of the coverage I have found on them has been overwhelmingly positive. Of course there has been some stuff that is negative – there always will be when you’re working in such a hot-button topic area as this – but their results speak for themselves.

There was one artilce I found yesterday – a short piece I found in the Times-Journal of Fort Payne, Alabama (ahh, the joys of Google News :) ). The piece is entitled, innocently enough, No predators starts with parents by Greg Purvis. However it becomes evident quite early on that this piece is not journalism, but is instead an op-ed piece – and it isn’t very good at that. I’m going to break down the misstatements and correct them for you, and show you how even a little bit of fact checking would have made this quite a different piece altogether…

The “Perverted Justice” volunteers (a fitting name, as very little actual justice meted out) are folks who fish around for hours in teen chat rooms (which has to be about as exciting as a root canal) waiting for someone to take the bait. While waiting on the proverbial dirty old man to type some sexual innuendo, Hanson is busy reading his fan mail.

Wow, that pretty much sets the tone for this piece, doesn’t it? Also, if Mr. Purvis had simply checked the FAQ he would have found that a) the Perverted-Justice team never sets any “bait” (unless you count their mere presence as “bait”), and it takes only minutes, not hours to get a response. From the FAQ:

Do you contact the men or do they contact you?
We have an official “rules of engagement” that we train contributors in once they are selected. One of those rules is that unless asked to in the chat, always let the male PM you. That way they can’t cry that the “kid” messaged them in IM first, they have to take the first step. Often, just entering a chat room is enough to get 3-10 instant messages at once without having to say anything in the main chat room area.

We are philosophically against anyone or any organization that contacts people first as underage personas. There is no reason to do that when online predators are so numerous and motivated to contact what they think is a 10-15 year old male or female first. We want predatory threats and we are happy to wait as long as it takes to find them. Sadly, that doesn’t take very long.

OK, let’s see what else Mr. Purvis has to say…

The bad guys are arguably the most maligned group of people on earth. Perhaps the “creepy uncle” demographic might feel a little put-upon, but the show cashes in on a perfect formula: Find a bad guy everybody hates.

WHAT WHAT WHAT? I’m sorry, but how can you “malign” a friggin’ PEDOPHILE? That means to make evil or untrue statements about someone; pedophilesare evil. Did I miss something? Does Mr. Purvis have sympathy for them? WTF?

Sigh. Moving on…

Hanson and his Dateline overlords are pushing the line perilously close to entrapment. Not as a public service, either – though that is precisely what we are supposed to believe. But simply to create an admittedly compelling story. Oh, and to sell advertising. Almost slipped my mind.

OK, there are a couple of things in this bit that I want to address. First, the ludicrous entrapment statement. Let’s start by clearing up exactly what entrapment is, shall we?

entrapment (from 1.the luring by a law-enforcement agent of a person into committing a crime.

So, right off the bat, in order for it to be entrapment, it has to be carried out by law enforcement. Perverted-Justice, or NBC, are NOT law enforcement. Second, it has to be an offering so tempting that the person can’t turn it down. Like, say, a 60″ plasma TV that “fell off a truck” for $200. That’s entrapment. Sex with a 13 year old, even if she’s throwing herself at the adult, can NEVER be entrapment, ever. EVER.

And of course Perverted-Justice has something in their FAQ about this as well, as it seems they get this question all the time too. Let’s see what they have to say…

Is it entrapment?
To the people who like to make that claim, let’s deal with an analogy real quick. Pretend that there is a twelve year old sitting in a park dancing around and asking older males for sex. Yes, that extreme of a situation. What should the male say? Yes, or no? Is the prospect of an underage kid so irresistible that we now consider a willing underage kid to be so persuasive that a male can’t do anything but say yes? Get real.

So are the files we post “entrapment”? No. Not on any level. First, entrapment is a term created and judiciated against law enforcement officials. We are not law enforcement officials. Secondly, these people IM our names first. We don’t IM them. They choose to say the things they say, to agree to the things they agree to, and to give their phone number for the verification call. Entrapment is a situation where you go out of your way to entice a citizen as law enforcement to commit a crime they otherwise would not commit. For example, if a department sent around female police pretending to be prostitutes to knock on the doors of private citizens offering sex, that’s entrapment. We don’t do the figurative “knocking on doors.” Rather we sit, wait, and allow them to knock upon our online “door.” And when they do, they’re in for a surprise. As the law states regarding entrapment, the defense fails when it can be shown that the person being charged had a predisposition to the crime in question. Nobody can argue who knows anything about the law in any honest fashion that those we get arrested are not predisposed to attempting the crime they do.
Dozens and dozens and dozens of convictions… zero successful entrapment defenses.

So once again Mr. Purvis has no idea what he is talking about – and as a journalist you would think he would have taken just a little bit of time to research his article before writing it, especially before throwing around fairly serious accusations like entrapment.

The second part of the blockquote that I wanted to address was the “selling advertising” smarmy comment. OK, so NBC is selling advertising. OH my gosh, you mean they want to make a buck or two off of their show?!? Horror of horrors! You know what? I don’t begrudge them wanting to make some money – and if two purposes can be served – putting pedophiles in jail AND making NBC a buck or two – then even more better.

But there is one other thing I’d like to point out. I read an article (I am trying to find it, but can’t right now – dang it!) that stated that Perverted-Justice schedules these stings whether the media shows up or not. In fact, something similar is stated here in their FAQ:

OMG I read that you guys get a consulting fee from Dateline NBC! Shenanigans!
Yep, we do. When you watch the “To Catch a Predator” stings, you’re not watching to hear about us. We’re not the focus of the story. We haven’t been the focus of the story since the first episode of TCAP. The story on To Catch a Predator is… catching predators and who they are, not who we are. We did the first three TCAP’s without a consulting fee. Then we realized a few things…

“Hey, we can’t keep our site up and we’re all barely scraping by month to month.”
“Hey, we’re not the story.”
“Hey, every TCAP that airs, we get deluged with hits and we don’t have the staff to grow.”
“Hey, everyone else, from the police arresting the predators to the cameraman operating the surveillance to the security protecting Chris Hansen to Chris Hansen himself to the movers of all the gear to the producers on scene to the person who owns the house to… well, everyone except ourselves and the predators are being compensated for this massive amount of effort.”

After we realized all these facts, we did what any sane people would, negotiated for a consulting fee. We’re not the story and our work is world-class quality. That doesn’t mean that all we do are stings with Dateline, we do just as many police stings WITHOUT Dateline that we do with them… and nobody gives us a dime in regards to those stings.

Still not convinced? Consider the fact that for the first three years of the website, we didn’t take in a dime, not from media nor from donations.

So, as you can see they do this all the time, whether they get paid or not.

Why did I do this? Well, I am interested in the work that Perverted-Justice does. I found this article when I was searching around, and I thought it was stupid enough that I just had to respond. I think I’ll try to volunteer some time to work with Perverted-Justice – I like the idea of what they do, and I think I have something to offer. But even if I don’t shoddy journalism pisses me off, and I thought I’d take a few moments and point it out.

**The scientific theory I like best is that the rings of Saturn are composed entirely of lost airline luggage