Sunday, July 13, 2003

New laws OK'd online police stings


Case of Cincinnati radio host led to change in Ohio

By Sharon Turco
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The arrest in 2000 of Jim Fox, a popular Cincinnati radio DJ, prompted new laws in Ohio allowing police to pose as children to surf the Internet for sex predators.

Fox was arrested in Xenia for soliciting a 14-year-old girl online. The "teen" turned out to be an undercover police officer. At the time, the crime was a misdemeanor, and Fox drew a 30-day suspended jail sentence, probation and orders to undergo counseling.

"It really brought to light the dangers of individuals soliciting children on the Internet for sex," state Sen. Steve Austria, R-Beavercreek, says.

Ohio "importuning" laws already made it a crime for anyone over age 18 to use a computer or phone to solicit sex from a child. But Austria successfully pushed to make the crime a felony and to specifically allow police to go undercover online.

Changes to the law, which took effect in 2001, also call for anyone convicted of importuning to be deemed a "sexually oriented offender," allowing law enforcement officers to track where they're living.

The change meant repeat offender Todd Buffington didn't get a break the second time around.

Buffington, a dispatcher for a suburban Columbus police department, was arrested by Xenia officers for importuning in late 2001 and sentenced to probation. But he was at it again this year and was arrested by Columbus police. This time, the importuning charge landed Buffington in prison.

Now, many states have similar laws. Others, including Kentucky and Indiana, don't have specific legislation for the crime-fighting technique, but they also don't have laws preventing it.

At least 20 police agencies in Southwest Ohio track predators online by posing as children. Locally, city and county officers jointly work the Internet beat as members of the Hamilton County Regional Electronics and Computer Investigations Task Force.

Undercover tracking of sexual predators online got under way in earnest in January 2002.

---

E-mail sturco@enquirer.com




ENQUIRER COLUMNISTS
Bronson: Flynts' outrage just part of their fetish for ink
Howard: Some good news
Pulfer: TV infomercial Springer's latest 'silly show'

PAGE A1
Convergys: Council agonizes over take-it-or-leave-it deal
Convergys could displace 5 companies
You're more familiar with Convergys than you think
Tell 'em what you think
Stung online, few claim innocence
New laws OK'd online police stings
Protecting your kids while they're online

METRO NEWS
Parents' pride: All 3 kids in Iraq
Tall Ships set their sails for northern Ohio ports
Butler receives aid for seniors
Bicycle trek aids research, services for MS
Should records go on 'Net?
Residents fight shopping center
Mystery of stolen rabbit statue solved
Dad accused of giving son a lethal drug overdose
Episcopalians turn to humor to fill the pews
600 nuns hold regional meeting
OSU trustees pass second tuition increase in 3 months
Some suspects allowed to roam
Tristate A.M. Report

OBITUARY
David J. Pusack, 80, retired engineer

KENTUCKY REPORT
Blood shortage delays some surgeries
Cloggers, tiny dragsters, prize chickens and more
Lakeside Park cops suspect homicide
Body identified as S. Lebanon woman
A.G. says they called despite do-not-call
Dems draw up battle plan at saloon
$100,000 reward in attack on Ky. horses
Ky. teachers' salaries trail U.S. average