Tags: Crimes | Against | Children

Crimes Against Children

Friday, 07 April 2006 12:00 AM

He had a top-level security clearance and a top job at the Homeland Security Department, which didn't stop him from asking a girl he believed was 14 years old to think of him while performing sex acts.

He identified himself by his name and job title in the first instant message he sent, then followed up with 16 pornographic videos and chocolates.

He wasn't so crazy that he didn't know what he was doing was criminal - he told her he could go to jail, so she should erase his messages so her parents wouldn't find them.

On Tuesday night, Brian Doyle, the deputy spokesman for the Homeland Security Department, a 55-year-old man, was arrested at his home outside Washington, D.C., on 23 felony counts because this time, luckily, the "girl" was really an FBI agent.

What's wrong with these men? Ask a shrink. Frankly, I don't really care. As a parent of two young teenagers, one 13 and one 15, what I know is that raising teenagers has never been more challenging.

Today's headlines also trumpet the fact that drug use among teenagers has dropped. Read on, and you find that, as usual, the devil is in the details. The big drop is from 11.4 percent who said they used drugs within the last month in 2002 to 10.9 percent who said they used them within the last month in 2004. To my unmathematical eye, it still looks like one in 10, just in the last month, which doesn't look great.

I live in California, where marijuana is legal for medicinal purposes. I voted for the law and support it. But I can't help wondering why the legal age for marijuana is 18, while it's 21 for alcohol.

I asked a doctor friend of mine about it, and she laughed sardonically. The teenagers don't go to the clinics, she said. They don't bother with medical records. They go to the street corners. She told me about three corners in my neighborhood where you can buy marijuana any day after school. Why don't the police go there, then? I asked. They did, she said, and they switched corners. Of course.

Go on Craigslist, and you don't just find sex ads. After reading a story about the return of AIDS among young gay men, I checked it out. Pictures. And not of the guys' faces. I'm not kidding.

I showed a friend who is the father of a young gay man. "PNP," the ads say, right now, and then they have these pictures so you can check out the merchandise. PNP means "party and play." Party means methamphetamines. My friend sat his son down for a talk. He wanted to lock him in the house. He isn't biased, just terrified.

There are lots of people my age - old enough to have lived a full life without the Internet - who pride themselves on being Luddites, who still think "myspace" is where they park at work in the morning, who laugh at the anti-drug commercials, who don't know what a webcam is - and figure these stories are always going to be about someone else's kids.

Arrests by the Justice Department's Internet Crime Against Children Task Force (ICAC) were up threefold from 2003 to 2005, which looks to me like the tip of the iceberg. I can't believe that 1,597 - the number of arrests in 2005 - even begins to address the problem out there. It's just too easy.

There is pornography everywhere on the Internet. I wouldn't care if I didn't have to see it. But it's unavoidable. You look for clothes for your kids, and you get pornographic websites. You open your email in the morning, and it's full of sex ads. I ask my kids if they get these, too, and they laugh at me as if I'm from another century - which, of course, I am. Of course they do.

In my century, we used to hitchhike around town and get picked up by our parents' friends. It was my campaign to get a car, or at least to get my parents to lend me theirs more often. An utter failure, I should add. But I knew almost everyone who picked me up. My kids are growing up with an information superhighway that is littered with perverts from around the world, and they find you.

What's a parent to do? What parents have always done, only more, not less. Parents have to know what their kids are doing. That means really knowing. We have to understand the technology, the mode of communication, what it means to think you know someone, as opposed to really knowing them.

Is that party being given by a girl from school or a girl from the Internet? Is it from our town or myspace? Myspace just purged literally hundreds of thousands of profiles for inappropriate content. Was one of those your kid's? Or your kid's friends?

Too many parents are afraid to be nosy. Parents are supposed to be nosy. How else are we supposed to do our jobs and keep our kids safe? If you're not nosy, if you don't ask your kid whom they're talking to online, or sending pictures to, or what they're looking at, how will you know if they're talking to a man like Brian Doyle, or one of the one in 10 who used drugs last month?

Brian Doyle understood something that most of us don't. Fifteen hundred arrests is nothing in a world of hundreds of millions of Internet surfers. He wasn't really scared at all. He knew what he was doing was a crime, but he was so bold that he gave his real name. He was looking for a real 14-year-old, and it was just his very bad luck that, this time, a guy like him didn't find one.



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He had a top-level security clearance and a top job at the Homeland Security Department, which didn't stop him from asking a girl he believed was 14 years old to think of him while performing sex acts. He identified himself by his name and job title in the first...
Friday, 07 April 2006 12:00 AM
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