Computer Crime Research Center


Cybercops' next predator snare just a click away

Date: January 02, 2008

JACKSONVILLE — For a guy who just turned 40, Chuck McMullen can turn himself into a fairly convincing teenager.

So can Chad Hoffman, 35, who effortlessly sheds 20 years as he clicks his way between message windows of online chat rooms.

They are computer cops, posing as bait for men who trawl the Internet for confused and vulnerable teens. Armed with a tough new law that makes traveling to meet a minor for sexual purposes a 15-year felony, Hoffman and McMullen keep up on the latest online slang and techno-gadgetry that every kid knows well.

Predators show an almost childish hope, wanting to believe they’re talking to a teenager, or someone even younger. Some will wince away at the first mention of an age younger than 18, but most are recklessly frank about their desires.

“The language is horrible. It’s very graphic and detailed, worse than you would find in any adult magazine,” said McMullen, law-enforcement chief of the attorney general’s predator cybercrime unit in Jacksonville. “Sometimes, you want to close your eyes and say, ‘I don’t want to do this,’ but somebody has to.”

He said the squad notched its 55th arrest early this month.
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