The Battle Wages On Against Online Sexual Predators

by Victor Lopez
NewsWest 9

AUSTIN--In the age of online chat and text messaging, your child could be chatting with someone who's intentions are far from decent and not even know it.

As part of a special report, NewsWest 9 got an inside look at the Cyber Crimes Unit in Austin.  Be advised, some of the following content could be graphic and disturbing.

Lt. Kimberly Bustos is on the front lines of an ongoing war.  She talks to online predators, every day.

"This person is wanting me to ask him questions about sex. This one has already asked if I'm still a virgin," Bustos said.

These are just parts of a couple of online chats she's having, at 11:00 on a Thursday morning.  She chatting with men who think she is a twelve year old girl.

"Normally it starts out with hi, a-s-l, which means age, sex, location.  At that time, we'll tell each other how old we are and where we're from.  A lot of them will attempt to talk about school and other things before they go into the sexual conversations.  But almost all of them end up in a sexual conversation," Bustos explained.

Some of the conversations got so graphic, we can't repeat them.  Some men become very possessive and take control from the start.

According to Bustos, "They instruct me to get out of the chat room and they become very jealous and very possessive.  Don't talk to anyone else.  Who are you talking to?  Get out of the chat room, you're mine and mine only.  I'm going to tell you what to do.  You belong to me.  All sorts of things like that."

It's a war that takes place 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

During our visit, Lt Bustos and her partner, sat in a small, unmarked room in an Austin high rise, at times, carrying on as many as 10 or 11 chats at one time.

Bustos says, most of them have one thing in common.  These men want to meet her in person and have sex, even though she's told them, she's still a child.  Many are willing to travel across the state or the country.

"I've had people travel after 4 hours and I've had people travel after a year.  It just depends on the aggressiveness of the predator.  They're not very particular about how long it takes them to get to the child or where they have to meet, because they are that desperate to have sex with a child.  They'll do anything and they'll go anywhere," Bustos commented.

It's this type of activity, that Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott wants to stop.  That's why the Cyber Crimes Unit is so important.

According to Abbott, "People who seek to commit these crimes are truly dangerous, incorrigible and will stop at nothing, in order to get to their teenaged victim."

The sad reality is, it could be anyone at all, even someone you know.

"Predators come in all shapes and sizes, all races, all different kinds of economic backgrounds, all different locations across the state.  Even people coming from outside the state of Texas, coming to various locations in Texas, to assault what they think, is a young teenager,"  the Attorney General explained.

No city is immune from online predators.  Between 2004 and 2006, three men were arrested by the task force in Midland for online solicitation of a minor.

Since it's such a widespread problem, a proactive approach is needed.  Attorney General Abbott says one of their goals is to arrest as many predators as possible.  Another one is education, "We have put on presentations across the state of Texas, including a presentation in Odessa, that educates teens, educates parents, educates schools about these kinds of dangers.  The more we can educate parents, educate teens about these dangers, the more we can reduce the risk that someone can be victimized."

Parents should be very involved with their child's online activities.  Sit down and talk to them about the dangers of online.  You should step in, frequently, and tell your child, 'hands off the computer' and see exactly what's going on.

If you do that several times a week, then your child will start to understand the importance of following the rules and make sure they aren't doing anything that could lead them to potential danger.