Florida officers regularly conduct sting operations in an attempt to apprehend adults who are attempting to engage in illegal sexual conduct with minors. Over the years, many have questioned the tactics officers use to catch these alleged sexual predators. According to a recent investigation, officers in Florida routinely entrap innocent victims. In some cases, police officers even stole property from potential suspects.
Station 10 Investigates in Tampa found that the Central Florida Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force spent hours on predator sting operations. They violated arrest rules to inflate their arrest totals and took property from the alleged perpetrators. Furthermore, many of the suspects who were arrested were publicly shamed in press conferences in a manner that could easily ruin their reputation and future employment opportunities. And all of this occurring before they were given a chance to fight the charges in court.
According to RT.com, 1,200 men have been arrested since the task force began in 2008. It is a well-funded task force that often garners press and support. Some of the arrests involved predators who were attempting to break the law, but a significant number of men were arrested even when they showed little to no interest in the underage decoy. The study found that some of these men had property seized by officers even when they were not officially charged with a crime. Some believe this was the use of entrapment with the intention of stealing. For example, in a January 2014 sting, the Clearwater Police and the County Sheriff’s Office arrested 35 men over a single weekend and seized 19 vehicles.
In some cases, men who said they have no interest in sexual relations with a minor were still arrested. Others had their rights violated and were entrapped. It is against the Internet Crimes Against Children guidelines to:
• Repeatedly steer the conversion to unwanted sexual activity • Make a concerted effort to lure the suspect into committing the crime • Push a suspect into a committing a crime by controlling the tone and subject matter or the conversation toward a criminal act
The majority of the men arrested are not considered a high risk to children. Many of the men arrested were teenagers or only in their early 20s. Even those who were not officially charged had their reputation dragged through the mud and their property stolen. If you have been accused of a sex crime or if you feel that you were entrapped by a Florida law enforcement officer, please do not hesitate to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney who will protect your rights every step of the way.