HELSTON: How a child lurer got away with it, and how we can stop the next one | iNFOnews | Thompson-Okanagan's News Source

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HELSTON: How a child lurer got away with it, and how we can stop the next one

Charlotte Helston is the Vernon reporter for InfoNews.
November 07, 2014 - 7:01 AM

If you’re caught drunk driving, you’ll likely find a breathalyzer device on your car to prevent a repeat offense. Likewise, convicted drug dealers on probation are checked up on by police. But it seems there was little supervision in place to prevent sex offender David Willerth from attempting to lure more girls over the computer.

When Willerth was arrested in July 2013, he was already on conditions not to use the Internet for purposes other than work, and not to engage in any activity with females under 18. That’s because of two priors, including criminal harassment involving a neighbour (she was under 18) and impersonation of his ex-girlfriend. He hacked into her Facebook account and used it to contact girls. He admitted his sole purpose with the charade was to get sex. That was in 2012. A year later, unbeknownst to authorities, Willerth was contacting 16 known victims as young as 12 through a fake Facebook profile from his home in Vernon.

It makes you wonder—could better supervision and monitoring have prevented Willerth from continuing down his dark path? His deviant tendencies were known, yet he easily got away with it. In recent court proceedings, we heard what Willerth learned from his prior convictions: to use a fake name.

But we can’t rely solely on authorities to keep tabs on those who prey on children. Part of the answer is in our hands. It wasn’t police who intercepted his wrongdoings. It wasn’t an undercover agent from the Integrated Child Exploitation Unit posing as a little girl. It was two 14-year-old girls who told their parents. Police were notified, and tracked the user’s IP address to Willerth’s house. If those girls hadn’t come forward, Willerth might still be reeling in victims. With reports of child luring rising 30 per cent in 2013, we need children to speak up more than ever.

It’s possible the higher number of reports is a good thing; a sign that education campaigns are working. School visits about the dangers of online luring and extortion are becoming more and more common. One such visit inspired a girl who had been tormented for years to turn in her online abuser. Sites like Cybertip.ca are inundated with reports every month.

We may be turning a corner, but there’s still a long way to go. A pair of girls turned in Willerth, but they represented two of 16 known victims. This goes out to the ones who stayed silent: Be victors, not victims. You have the power to put a stop to this. Lives have been lost to child luring. Amanda Todd was 15 when she took her own life after being blackmailed by a stranger online. Be the preventative mechanism that comes in the next perpetrator’s way.

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at chelston@infonews.ca or call 250-309-5230. To contact the editor, email mjones@infonews.ca or call 250-718-2724.

News from © iNFOnews, 2014

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