TALLAHASSEE, FL—A new bill would help fund local law enforcement agencies in their efforts to create sting operations to track down and arrest child predators. The bill would financially assist agents who pose as children online to locate and prosecute pedophiles and child abusers.
"There are countless stories hearing about sting operations," HB 1131's sponsor, Republican John Temple said during the House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee, "We need to continue to sway those individuals who continue to attack our young people."
Online sting operations have been in practice for some time here in Florida, with impressive results in the last few months. Leon County created the Capital City Human Trafficking Taskforce in late 2023, and has since arrested 16 people in connection to predatory behaviors. Polk County arrested six people in October of 2023 through these operations, and Hillsborough announced in early January that they had apprehended a whopping 123 pedophiles over the course of three months.
The bill requires the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to annually fund local law enforcement agencies for costs related to computers, electronics, software, and other related necessary supplies.
Online sting operations was brought to public knowledge mainly by the popular show "How to Catch a Predator" with Chris Hansen. Though the show faced allegations of entrapment, Hansen, who partnered with law enforcement agencies across the country, managed to arrest over 100 pedophiles. The show ended abruptly following the suicide of a former Assistant District Attorney who had been in contact with one of the show's decoys.
Under Florida law, attempting to seduce a child online, or attempting to convince a parent online to grant permission to a child, is a third-degree felony. Traveling to meet a minor following online contact is a second-degree felony.
HB 1131 passed committee unanimously, and will head to the Judiciary Committee as its final stop before the House floor.