Moulding Issues Press Release Amid Local “Pedo-Bating” Videos

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Jefferson County Attorney Chauncey Moulding issued a press release amid recent videos circulating online featuring a phenomenon known as “pedo-bating.”

Moulding says the videos appear to depict local adults attempting to meet with whom they believe are children they encountered online. The meetings are a result of a private citizen or citizens creating social media accounts posing as minors, then confronting the adult men who propositioned to meet the children in person.

Moulding calls the videos disturbing and depicts a shocking and unfortunate reality that children are often targeted for sexual abuse by adults online. Moulding commended the efforts of the individual creating these videos, and after meeting with members of law enforcement, the evidence and records generated by this individual have been turned over to law enforcement for further investigation.

However, Moulding cautions that standard procedures from child exploitation investigation agencies generally prohibit the use of
“vigilante” investigations or “stings” in furtherance of criminal investigations, for several reasons.

Moulding says these investigations generally adhere to specific rules relating to evidentiary integrity and chain of custody, as well as procedural limitations on what can and cannot be said when an investigator poses as a minor online when investigating sexual exploitation. Furthermore, there are grave safety concerns generated when confronting an adult who may have just been caught seeking to exploit a minor for sex. When law enforcement conducts these operations, it is in a controlled environment involving numerous trained and armed agents which limits the dangers present in a sting. Additionally, and ideally, the individual is arrested if the grounds exist. Moulding explains the created environment further limits the danger posed that the target might harm themselves or others following the confrontation, which is a very real possibility. Because of these reasons, vigilante investigations are not condoned or encouraged in any way by law enforcement.

Moulding says law enforcement are actively investigating the records received relating to these videos, and will determine whether criminal charges are appropriate based on the information provided.

According to Moulding, the incident stands as a good reminder to parents that children can and often are the subject of sexual attention by adults encountered online, and a conversation regarding safe online behavior is a good idea, as there are predators lurking online, but not far away, that wish to harm children.

As a result of this incident, Moulding says local agencies will be enhancing efforts at online enforcement operations to further discourage this type of behavior.

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