The Macomb County Sheriff’s Department has a new program to enlist citizens to chat up pedophiles online. The goal is to expand the department’s capacity to find people who are interested in statutory rape. I suspect this is an attempt to recreate the ratings Fox 2 News got when they staged a similar stunt a month or two ago, although I didn’t hear of their sting resulting in any prosecutions. While the Sheriff’s Department’s goal is admirable, I have to question their methods.

Entrapment was the first thing that I thought of, but my law degree from Law & Order taught me that an entrapment defense is actually pretty hard to prove. You have to prove that you wouldn’t normally have been open to the crime in question and that it was only the specific methods that enticed you into a life of crime. I’m not the only one with reservations.

“I think it’s shocking,” said Detroit defense lawyer Elizabeth Jacobs. She opposes law enforcement agents posing online as children because she said it tricks law-abiding citizens into committing crimes.

She said adding average Joes and Janes to the mix is even worse. “It sounds like Soviet Russia where everybody spies on everybody else,” Jacobs said.

Mark Bowser, an Ingham County Sheriff’s Department detective and president of the Michigan chapter of the High Technology Crime Investigation Association, said the program should be used carefully.

“There’s too much that can go wrong, even as a police officer,” he said.

Personally, I’m not entirely comfortable with a couple parts of this. First, let’s look at what’s going on. Two adults are exchanging text messages. The context is that one adult believes that the other adult is a horny minor, and when they show their intent by taking the action of trying to meet the fictional minor. If they attempt to crack down on this at any point before then I have a big issue with it, but what’s being done now seems fine.

Second, since they haven’t actually done anything to hurt anyone; I would hope that these criminals get plenty of rehabilitative therapy with their punishment. If the person is linked to a crime where real sex was involved the punishment should be much stricter. I also have to wonder if they should be labeled as sex offenders, because technically they’re potential sex offenders.

The Sheriff’s Department has no shortage of help for this endeavor. This isn’t too surprising for anyone who’s read They’re doing background checks on over 100 applicants, hopefully better background checks than the Catholic church has been doing. I doubt they’ll need that many people, considering they only had 20 arrests last year. I have to wonder though, if these background checks would find problems with the people they catch…


13 responses to “Police recruit citizens in War on Pedophilia”

  1. It’s sort of sounding like thought crime. The same techniques are being applied to drugs and I’d much rather pick that battle than this one.
    When they catch someone, what do they charge him/her with? I don’t think they can even charge them with CSC crimes and get them on the sex-offender registry.
    Macomb cty must be crawling with child molesters.

  2. I suspect they’ll be charged with a crime starting with the word “intent” which is largely the domain of the thought crime, although there must usually be some physical manifestation of that thought. As for Macomb County having lots of child molesters, that must be the case. They rounded up a posse because the sheriff could only arrest 20 people the entire year of 2003. That means either there aren’t that many (in which case why do they need a posse) or there are a ton and the sheriff has only removed an inconsequential number of them.
    Man, if I had kids I’d stay the hell out of Macomb County.

  3. It’s Michigan Compile Law (MCL) 750.145a to be exact, “Accosting, enticing or soliciting child for immoral purpose”. That’s a nice law. However 750.142 scares me. Apparently it’s illegal to give a minor a copy of anything containing a police report or anything containing “criminal news”. I wonder was the penalties are for giving a child a copy of the Detroit Free Press these days?

  4. The persons perception of what is going is what counts here. The fact that the child isn’t actually a child isn’t relavent, only the suspect/defendants perception.
    By the logic above, the following stings would also not work.

    : Pandering. An office pretends to be a prostitute in a string, and arrest johns for pandering. It’s irrelevant whether the office is actually a prostitute.

    Officer poses as a drug dealer. Supplies defendant with a substance that is not drugs (i.e oregano for marijauna, etc.) It’s irrelavent whether the officer is a drug dealer, or the drugs are real.

    etc, etc…The police according to legislative and case law are permitted to use deception with criminals and suspected criminals. The line they can’t cross is entrapment, where they coerce the suspect/defendant into committing the crime, or make it so unbelievably tempting the defendant couldn’t reasonably be expected to refuse. Something like the police leaving an armored car open with bags of money lying about across the street from the parole office would fall under this heading, or threatening a person with any consequence if they didn’t commit the crime.
    Fake drugs in a sting, fake money, fake hookers, fake children. The burden is on the defendant to prove that he knew that it wasn’t a real child, drugs, etc, etc.

  5. When cybering goes terribly wrong

    I never knew that there was a site that kept a log of pedophile chats. It’s so hilarious! Got it from good ol’ George’s site (comments)….

  6. But wouldn’t a) putting the burden entirely on the accused be a violation of the presumption of innocence? And b) wouldn’t every “pedophile” just claim that they knew it was an adult that they were setting up a meeting with, and say they thought it was part of the role-play? It’s illegal to fuck children, but it’s not illegal to have your girlfriend pretend to be a child while you fuck her (though it is kinda repugnant).

  7. When cybering goes terribly wrong

    I never knew that there was a site that kept a log of pedophile chats. It’s so hilarious! Got it from good ol’ George’s site (comments)….

  8. The U.S. supreme courts, and federal courts have generally refused to side with sex offenders under most circumstances. See:

    Connecticut Dept. of Public Safety v. Doe

    Patterson v. State

    Etc, etc, etc. If actually took a day and made a list, it would be three pages long, but I’m not going to flood George’s blog with that. Nor do I really want to spend that much time using LEXIS/NEXIS. The point is that with such a heinous crime, even the judiciary is reluctant to create loopholes for the child molesters to potentially escape through.
    Anyways, the protocol and case law for I-STULE(Internet Solicitations to Undercover Law Enforcment. – This includes people working as agents of law enforcement.) The courts have repeatadly held that officers must follow the case law and general police procedures pertaining to undercover drug operations in conducting the sting.
    As for the “violation of the presumption of innocense” I think you are confusing “presumption of innocense” with “burden of proof”. The courts routinely require various parties, including defendants to meet certain “burdens of proof” regarding there case. A defendant in a bail hearing must prove that she/he isn’t a flight risk in order to acquire bail. The burden of proof also falls on the defendant likewise to prove they knew that they were chatting to was an officer/ agent of the police. I’m going to go out on a limb here, and say that this probably almost never happens, because in a typical sting, an arrest isn’t made until the offender meets the “child.” If they knew it was the police, then they wouldn’t have come, would they? It would be a very, very difficult defense to pull off.

  9. if i could save children from being obducted by the scum that is out there it would make me elated. There should be tougher laws with pedophiles. What a disgusting disease these men have. When I hear a child was sexually abused it sickens me and wish this epidemic would totally be erased. However, we must have the cooperation of judges, lawyers, neighbours and citizens to help protect our children from these monsters.

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