Many of you know I am a computer programmer by trade, so statistics and analytics are definitely in my wheel house. Last year, while on the Dr. Phil show I asked an ICAC task force police officer what I felt was an important question. If you are interested in saving children, if that is the reason you run police proactive stings entrapping innocent men, then why do you not search these ‘sexual predators’ homes for evidence both to corroborate your accusations AND to identify, and help past or present victims?
The police officer answered my question with ‘We do.’ Unfortunately that was the only question I was allowed to ask, and Dr. Phil just accepted the officers answer, actually all of the officers answers, without any push back. While I was aggravated, I understand the Dr. Phil show is a reality show, designed for entertainment, and is in no position to back men accused of being predators. I did expect more from this man, much as I expected more from the police, prosecutors, and judges involved in these cases, but I’ve had to learn to live with disappointment.
Part of my agenda since then is to gather data on these stings:
- There are crime reports submitted by local police across the nation for every arrest they make.
- I created an online survey posted on advocate websites across the country
- A C.A.G.E. workgroup is gathering all ICAC performance reports from inception through 2022
I am hoping to spread word of the Police Proactive Sex Sting survey while at the NARSOL conference next month. Understandably there is only a 50% completion rate of those who start filling out the questionnaire. But of the data we have collected so far, with the majority of respondents coming from Florida, here are some statistics that might intrigue you.
- 63% reported having purposely stopped the conversation at least once
- 68% report non sexual communication being interrupted by LE, and led back to a sexual nature
- 70% were on an app requiring the user to verify they are over 18
- 17% of those arrested never left their house
- 30% of the arrested ‘predators’ had their houses searched
- 91% had their names broadcasted by the media upon arrest
- 23% had their employers name broadcasted by the media
We have also received a few states ICAC reporting to date. These are the numbers used by the DOJ for funding purposes. ICAC funding is calculated off of a number of different data points, but arrests and prosecutions are among them.
An interesting statistic we found recently in WA state was that in 2015, at the start of Washington’s Net Nanny proactive sting campaign, 1 out of 4 arrests were proactive. By 2017, 2 out of 3 were from proactive stings versus reactive stings. It did not take WA state long to understand the perverse incentives available through proactive stings!
But there is a possibly even more perverse outcome that I have uncovered. Remember me saying crime reports for every incident are collected across the nation? These go into a database called UCR (Unified Crime Reporting), and it’s updated counterpart NIBRS (National Incident-Based Reporting System), operated by the FBI. I wanted to search NIBRS for the number of sexual offenses involving no actual victim. My theory being that these numbers could be used against the ICAC reports to get a pretty good idea of what’s really happening versus any twisted, inflated reporting.
Every offense reported for things such as ‘attempted rape of a child’, ‘communicating with a child for immoral purposes’ or any number of state specific crimes, that have no victim, are all listed WITH A VICTIM!
How is that even possible? Well the support people at the FBI informed me that proactive sting incidents are to be reported as if the victim WAS the person the officer was impersonating. They even told me that is a common question among training officers. I was floored. So says I, have there been requests to add in an answer to such crimes as ‘no victim’? I know that questions, and responses, have been added and adjusted every year. Knowing proactive stings have been around for at least two decades…surely there is a request in to be able to record exactly what happened, right? NOPE. They have no plans to alter their data collection to include victimless sexual offenses. Oversight? I think not.
At first this floored me for the obvious reason that we cannot verify ICACs numbers submitted for federal and state funding. And that bothered me as there are already so few checks and balances involved in ICAC operations. But then it also dawned on me that we, as a nation, can also no longer accurately site statistics on minors going online looking for sex with adults, or parents offering their children for money or their own satisfaction.
So when ICAC goes in front of legislators looking for additional funding, armed with statistics about the number of youth being sought out online, by adults, for sex….where are they getting these numbers from exactly?