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Macpherson leads hearing on Internet sexual predators

Rep. Greg Macpherson, D-Lake Oswego, presided over a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee Monday on the subject of Internet sexual predators.

The hearing was held at Aloha High School.

'The Internet presents a whole new set of dangers,' Macpherson said at the opening of the hearing. 'It gives total anonymity to the criminal, which is especially frightening when he's a sexual predator.'

The committee heard presentations from invited panelists. Among them was Xavier Von Erck, the Portland resident who founded the volunteer organization, Perverted Justice. Von Erck and his organization developed sting operations to film sexual predators as they arrive at a location where they expect to pursue sexual relations with underage teens.

Other presenters included television journalists who report on sting operations, police detectives who handle investigations and prosecutors who put Internet predators away for prison terms. Mental health professionals working with sex offenders gave committee members insights into the mind of the predator.

'Our teenagers have no way to be sure that the new friend they met on line is, as claimed, another teenager struggling with the natural stresses of growing up,' Macpherson said. 'Too often it's a 30-year old male engaging in what law enforcement experts call 'grooming.' He befriends the teen, waiting until defenses are lowered, and then proposes a face-to-face meeting.'

The committee heard that Oregon is one of only eight states that have not yet identified sexual solicitation over the Internet as a specific crime. The committee will be considering legislation to establish such a crime in Oregon.