Bedford Co. Task Force Answers: Should Parents Take On Online Predators?

Bedford Co., VA - A mother and father in Washington State literally took matters into their own hands to take down an alleged online predator.

The mother, posing as her 15-year-old daughter, arranged a meet up. The father and his buddies showed up and held the man until police arrived.

ABC 13 spent the day with the Southern Virginia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force in Bedford County to see our team approve of such methods. They commend the parents for the effort, but they do so very cautiously. They don't suggest people try this at home.

The first thing Internet crimes investigators will tell parents is to be vigilant.

"What we can't advocate is parents here, or anywhere else, becoming what we refer to as cyber vigilantes," said Lieutenant Mike Harmony with the task force.

There's a slight difference in spelling between vigilant and vigilante, but there's a big difference when it comes to putting online predators behind bars.

"Law enforcement are trained how to do this. We know how to respond to it," said Harmony.

Lieutenant Mike Harmony has been responding to the advances of online predators for the last 15 years as part of the unit now called the Southern Virginia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, or SOVA ICAC.

Harmony says, while his team is thankful for a good outcome in the Washington case, the arrest of a predator, the final outcome will happen in court.

When the investigators are chatting with predators, every i they type is dotted... every T they type is crossed.

"There are certain protocols that we have to follow. Those protocols are set up by the national ICAC standards. There are things that we can and cannot do when we're online chatting.

"Let us handle it. Let us assume the role of their child. Our investigators are trained on how to chat. The chat that we do is not going to come into question if it's prosecuted."

These investigators can't stress enough for parents to know their role and not cross a line that might give a predator a free pass.

Harmony says safety is also a tremendous concern when a meeting is arranged with an online predator. There's a chance that person will show up with a weapon, and react very badly when he realizes he's not meeting a child.