TALLAHASSEE, FL—Local law enforcement agencies may receive a $10 million grant to fund online sting operations, designed to apprehend online pedophiles.
SB 1190, proposed by Republican Sen. Blaise Ingoglia, would allocate $10 million to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The grant would be disbursed to local law enforcement agencies to "support their creation of sting operations to target individuals online who prey upon children or attempt to do so,".
"There's nothing more heinous than online predators targeting our nation's children," Sen. Ingoglia said Thursday. "Often times these predators target unsuspecting minors using messaging apps, social media platforms, game chat rooms, and something as innocent as a coloring book app,"
In 2021, the adult coloring book app Recolor was sued by the Federal Trade Commission for allowing and enticing children onto its app and subsequently collecting and disclosing the children's personal data. Even though it was billed as a “coloring book for adults,” a portion of the app was directed to children, with a category called "Kids".
Angry parents alleged that Recolor allowed for "wide open chatting and posting selfies" and "adults openly sexting with children,". These claims appear unsubstantiated, as they were not included in the lawsuit.
In the past few months Florida counties Leon, Polk, and Hillsborough have collectively identified and arrested 145 pedophiles via these online sting operations, sparking the interest in further government funds and grants.
Online sting operations were brought to public knowledge 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.
SB 1190 passed the Senate Appropriations Committee on Criminal and Civil Justice unanimously, and will move to its final stop before the Senate Floor: the Committee on Fiscal Policy. Its House companion need only pass the House Floor.