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Trends in Arrests of Online Predators

March 31, 2009

Crimes Against Children Research Center : Trends in Arrests of “Online Predators” (PDF file).
(Janis Wolak, David Finkelhor, Kimberly Mitchell)

Key Findings:
Between 2000 and 2006, there was a 21% increase in arrests of offenders who solicited youth online for sex. During the same time, there was a 381% increase in arrests of offenders who solicited undercover investigators (UC) posing as youth.

• In 2006, of those arrested for soliciting online, 87% solicited undercover investigators (UC) and 13% solicited youth. (this can only indicate that undercover investigators were actively urging-on the solicitations)

• During the same period that online predator arrests were increasing, overall sex offenses against children and adolescents were declining, as were overall arrests for such crimes.

Arrests of online predators in 2006 constituted about 1% of all arrests for sex crimes committed against children and youth.

• During the interval between the two studies (2000 ‐ 2006), the percentage of U.S. youth Internet users ages 12‐17 increased from 73% to 93%.1,2

• Although arrests of online predators are increasing, especially arrests for soliciting undercover law enforcement, the facts do not suggest that the Internet is facilitating an epidemic of sex crimes against youth. Rather, increasing arrests for online predation probably reflect increasing rates of youth Internet use, a migration of crime from offline to online venues, and the growth of law enforcement activity against online crimes.

• The nature of crimes in which online predators used the Internet to meet and victimize youth changed little between 2000 and 2006, despite the advent of social networking sites. Victims were adolescents, not younger children. Most offenders were open about their sexual motives in their online communications with youth. Few crimes (5%) involved violence.

• There was no evidence that online predators were stalking or abducting unsuspecting victims based on
information they posted at social networking sites.

There was a significant increase in arrests of young adult offenders, ages 18 to 25. • Few of those arrested for online predation were registered sex offenders (4%).

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