— In the decade since Dateline NBC's "To Catch a Predator" segments popularized Internet sex stings, more than 1,200 men in Florida have been arrested, accused of preying on underage teens and children for sex. — In the decade since Dateline NBC's To Catch a Predator segments popularized Internet sex stings, more than 1,200 men in Florida have been arrested, accused of preying on underage teens and children for sex.But as the stings put more and more men behind bars, detectives are working harder and harder to keep up their arrest numbers.
Instead, they were looking for other adults when detectives started to persuade them to break the law.
Detectives used to post ads suggesting that an underage teen or child was available for sex but now routinely post more innocuous personal ads of adults on traditional dating sites.
JULY: Report reveals theme park workers arrested in child sex stings2012: Pro golfer, swim coach arrested in child sex sting operation When men, many of them younger than 25 with no criminal history, respond, officers switch the bait and typically indicate their age is really 14 or 15 years old.
However, sometimes the storyline isn't switched until the men, who were looking for legal love, already start falling for an undercover agent.
Many of the men charged with sexual-predator crimes see little jail time.
But when Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd was asked about overly aggressive detectives, he went on the offensive."The concern (I have) is that you inflate your investigative reporting to make it glitzy," he said.
Judges also have been critical of some tactics used in the stings, which violate Internet Crimes Against Children guidelines.
Officers also now are responding to men's ads on dating sites like Plenty Of
After the men start online chats with people they think are adults, agents change the age they claim to be but try to persuade the men to continue the conversation anyway.
Other examples include undercover officers showing interest in a man then later introducing the idea of having sex with the agent's "child." If the men indicate they aren't interested, many still were arrested for talking to the adult.
Critics of the stings say the operations make for better press conferences than crime fighting.