I-intelligence

Attorney general: Web-based predators an emerging threat

A school teacher who had no real interest in teaching. A youth minister who felt no true calling to preaching God's will. A man who dated a single mother for three years that he had no affection for.

They each shared common traits -- they put themselves in a position of power, a position that dictated they would be near children.

These are just a few of seedy tactics that Colorado Attorney General John Suthers, who is running for re-election this November, has seen sexual predators employ in trying to reach victims, he told a crowd Wednesday at the Boys' and Girls Club of Craig.

In recent years, tech savvy predators have found a popular new hunting ground for victims -- the Internet.

"It was incredible to me the deviancy some of them exhibit," Suthers said. He added, "You take that kind of deviancy ... and you give (sexual predators) access to the Internet and it is an absolute boon."

Suthers toured the Boys' and Girls Club on Wednesday and learned more about the club's Internet monitoring and computer filtering system.

Afterward, he delved into a discussion centered on computer sex crimes, sexual predators and the government's need to educate the public, keep up with emerging technologies, and enact laws that both limit access to children and toughen the penalties for soliciting them.

He listed estimates that indicate, at any time, about 60,000 predators worldwide are searching for potential victims online. He said that one in five children between 10 and 18 years old will be solicited for sex on the Internet, and one of 30 kids will be contacted by a predator outside the confines of the Web.

"I think that's a real wakeup call," he said.

"We really need to educate (children). They don't know predators are lurking around these sites."

That information is also important for parents, he said.

"We've got to make sure parents know that's what kids are facing," Suthers said.

Suthers, R-Colorado Springs, lists protecting children from Internet predators among his top priorities as attorney general. Also on his list are preventing illegal scams, out-of-state water grabs, and punishing polluters and criminals.

He is running against Fern O'Brien, D-Boulder, and Dwight Harding, L-Long--mont.

His campaign manager, Rich Coolidge, said recent polling data suggests his candidate is leading the race but by a slim margin.

"We'd like to be a little more of a front runner, but I think all candidates would like that," Coolidge said.

Suthers had a built-in block of support at Wednesday's gathering.

Walt Vanatta, Craig Police Chief, said he'd back the attorney general, an acquaintance for the last six or seven years, in the November election. Suthers, Vanatta said, has been an ardent advocate for Colorado police officers.

"I'm supporting him," he said. "I think he's a sharp guy, objective and does a good job. I think he's been very good for law enforcement."

Pres Askew, who's on the Boys and Girls Club board of directors, told those attending Wednesday's event "I think I'm John's campaign manager for Craig."

Like Vanatta, Bonnie Roe--sink, 14th Judicial District Attorney, said Suthers' work to support law enforcement and prosecutors has been well appreciated.

"From my perspective, I really appreciate all the efforts you've done," she said.

Later on Wednesday, Suthers attended a reception/fundraiser at Mathers Boardroom, 420 Yampa Ave., in which he was slated to address about 40 local voters.

Inevitably, he said Wednesday, the best practice for children and parents to take in preventing assaults from Internet predators is to educate themselves, and keep an open line of dialogue. As he pointed out, offenders that are released from prison often re-offend.

"The only thing you can do with sex offenders is manage them," Suthers said. He added, "That's all you can do, you cannot cure them."

Joshua Roberts can be reached at 824-7031, ext. 210, or jroberts@craigdailypress.com.

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