Where is it possible to hear the host of Dateline NBC's popular series "To Catch a Predator" and more recent exposés "To Catch a Con Man" and "To Catch an ID Thief" address the issue of online predators? At Enforcement Expo in Cleveland, Ohio, July 11 at 3:30 p.m.
Chris Hansen, a 14-year NBC News veteran, will be the keynote speaker at the third annual Enforcement Expo located at the I-X Center.
"Enforcement Expo is one of the first law enforcement conferences or exhibitions that Chris will make an appearance at," says Dave Caplin, show manager. "He wants to meet and network with a wider geographic net of law enforcement personnel to establish relationships and possibly expand the scope of the show."
Catching and exposing a crisis
Hansen developed the idea behind the Predator series after hearing about Perverted Justice, an Internet-based organization whose volunteers pose as children and teens, and then canvas the Internet for predators. These volunteers post profiles in chat rooms and wait for the predators to engage them in a conversation.
When the predator proposes a meeting, the Perverted Justice decoy accepts and directs the predator to a home NBC has rented and rigged with cameras and audio for recording purposes. Upon arrival, Hansen confronts the men — no women have taken the bait yet for a "To Catch a Predator" sting — with online chat records and images the men have exchanged with the decoy child. Following the confrontation, many men confess and detail their reasons for committing such acts. Others try to run, but the local, cooperating police agency stands by to take the predators into custody.
When asked if he thought the show would be so popular, Hansen commented on a March 23 radio broadcast, "No, absolutely not. I figured we would do this two or three times and that we'd get to the point where we would have nothing but video of me pacing an empty kitchen, like the Maytag repairman."
But Hansen has yet to start pacing. To date, 10 installments of the Predator series have aired over 2 1/2 years, exposing more than 200 potential child predators in its stings.
"The series has shown that Internet predators can be almost anybody in the community," notes Caplin. "Whether it is literally the person next door or in a position of responsibility and respectability, there is no unique characteristic binding the people that are committing these acts."
More than 40 million Americans have seen the series, with an average of 11 million viewers per episode. Because of this popularity, "Chris' stature brings very valuable name recognition to an event like Enforcement Expo," says Caplin.
Caught in a bind
Expanding on the information presented in the series, Hansen has published "To Catch a Predator: Protecting Your Kids from Online Enemies Already in Your Home." This book delves deeper into the world of child predators. It includes commentary from psychological and criminal experts about the origins and methods of child predators, and includes substantive advice for both parents and children on how to protect kids on the Internet.
Another topic is collateral damage — what happens to the wives and children of the men who are arrested. "You'll meet Darlene Calvin and hear the inspirational story of how she put her life back together after her husband's arrest," writes Hansen in his blog. "You'll also hear the unique prospective of Bob Schilling, a Seattle, Washington, police detective who investigates sex crimes against children, who himself was the victim of sexual abuse as a child."
Hansen also looks at the current methods for treating child predators and interviews several of the men seen on the "To Catch a Predator" series to follow up on their lives since being arrested. Hansen's book presents a strong analysis of what some feel is a child predator epidemic.