ST. LOUIS (KPLR) - A new epidemic called webcam child sex tourism is being fought half way around the world, yet it`s netting suspects right here in the Midwest. It`s finding men so desperate to have sex with kids, that they don`t realize they`re getting caught with a computer model.
An international organization called Terre des Hommes used four researchers, who posed as a 10-year-old girl named Sweetie.
Once online, the men instantly poured in by the thousands. I contacted Terre des Hommes by Skype and spoke to Hans Guijt in the Netherlands. He told me, 'These people think that they are untouchable ... and then they go back to bed at 2 o`clock in the morning with their wives.'
The group traced disgusting requests to men they were able to identify all over the world. Guijt added, 'The overwhelming majority, for what it`s worth, were Americans. We have 254 dossiers, detailed dossiers of American Nationals which we passed on to Interpol.'
Guijt says police told him about one arrest in Pittsburgh, but he says it`s unlikely any of these cases will lead to prosecutions because it was not only a computer model, but it was also controlled by civilians. Guijt says the test is more about getting your attention.
Guijt said, 'There`s a lot of what some people describe as casual pedophiles around who just take their chances because they think- they know - they get away with it. That has to change.'
He says the goal is to get police agencies across the world to set up their own stings. He explained, 'You can imagine as a child rights organization and dealing with thousands of victims of child sexual abuse, no thank you very much, we would like the police to intervene before a crime takes place.'
It`s something St. Louis County`s been doing for almost a decade. Yet police report seeing no decrease in the demand for child sex.
Sgt. Adam Kavanaugh said, '...year two, year three, year four and here we are, it`s still what it was nine years ago.'
Kavanaugh heads St. Louis County Police`s Special Investigations Unit, which spends much of its time catching pedophiles. He added, 'Every one you take out of the neighborhood, that makes that neighborhood that much safer and of course with the internet, even further out.'
Sgt. Kavanaugh says when his officers pose as children; they see the same overwhelming demand, as featured in the example with Sweetie. He adds that men are recently demanding younger children. He said, 'That average age in the past has been 13, 14 years old. That was the average age. Unfortunately now, over the last several months, that age range is changing to 9 and 10 year old.'
Sgt. Kavanaugh recommended open communication with your child, rather than rushing to add restrictions. He said pedophiles are searching for that kid who doesn`t have a good relationship with their parents.
He also warns parents not to threaten a possible perpetrator if you catch someone trying to lure your child. If you threaten them, Kavanaugh warns that they`ll likely go into hiding and pop up later to find a different potential victim.