Local News

Durham Sheriff's Office Catches Internet Predator At RDU International

Posted August 20, 2000 7:00 a.m. EDT

— The dark side of the Internet is seeing more light each day. In Durham County, a single lawman is waging war against Internet predators.

AtRaleigh-Durham International, an Internet predator flew into the clutches of waiting law enforcement officers, instead of the arms of a pre-teen girl.

Durham County Sheriff Deputy Steve Meska posed as a 12-year-old girl on the Internet. The bait was enough to hook Paul Willman. He was flying in from Austin, Texas, for a planned sexual encounter with a minor.

Durham County Sheriff Capt. Bill Wrenn says for every predator caught, there are countless others. He says law enforcement officers are being outmaneuvered by the predators because they outnumber officers.

"We know this is a prevalent problem," Wrenn says. "The last figure that I have is that about 200 officers nationwide conduct these type of investigations. There's probably enough work for 2,000 officers to do these types of investigations."

TheFederal Bureau of Investigationstarted a program called Innocent Images in 1997 for the sole purpose of tracking down Internet predators.

In the first year, the agents worked close to 700 cases. Last year, the figure jumped to 1,500 cases of predators surfing for minors on the Internet.

There are things you can do to protect your child from cyber predators:

  • Put your family computer in a central location so you can monitor what your child is doing while online. Set ground rules with your kids before they go online, such as the length of time they can be on the computer. Be sure to teach your children not to give out their personal information such as their name, address or phone number.

    For more tips, including kid-friendly sites and filtering software suggestions, visit WRAL OnLine'sFiltering the Web: An OnLine Guide for Parents & Kids.