Thursday, March 19, 2009

Ethical Evaluations of Police "Sting" Operations

In this week’s reading, the textbook discusses the ethics of police “sting” operations, addressing the question: “Is it morally right for police detectives to entrap pedophiles by posing as children in chat room and agreeing to meet with them?” In my mind, such behavior on part of the police is no different than other sorts of “sting” operations. If it is ethically acceptable to pose as drug dealers in order to catch individuals who are trying to buy drugs, then it should also be ethically acceptable to pose as children in these sorts of “sting” operations. I advocate a utilitarian perspective. If plenty of people are effectively deterred from engaging in child predator behavior as a result of sting operations, the act of lying in order to catch such individuals is insignificant. However, I am unsure as to whether the sting operations have actually effectively decreased child predator behavior in chat rooms. The book goes into no detail about the subject. If there are statistics showing that child predator behavior has decreased since the advent of the sting operations, then I don’t see an issue with continuing to perform them.

Although I would advocate sting operations if they are, in fact, an effective deterrent against child predators, I have mixed feelings about viewing these people for amusement purposes. For example, on the show “To Catch a Predator,” pedophiles seem to be a source of amusement for viewers. Although it may be funny to listen to the creepy old men’s explanations of why they have shown up at a minor’s residence, I feel morally guilty getting amusement from the show. Pedophilia is a mental disorder, and I feel uncomfortable in gaining amusement from watching them get “busted.” Similarly, the online databases are sometimes used as a source of amusement. Surely, some people use the databases in interest of protecting their children, but there as just as many people who like to look at the photos for fun. Is it morally wrong to put sex offenders on stage for our amusement?


  1. ~Sorry you guys, I couldn't Get my blog to post so It's also attached to this blog so please comment on both. Thanks!~
    ~Citeria McCaleb

    Religion and SNS:Are they Replacing the Church?

    In our recent readings on Chris Wyatt, the title of this blog came to my mind. Chris Wyatt is the founder and CEO of, the world's largest Christian-themed social networking site. The whole idea of having religious websites of this sort is really unsettling for me to say that it is morally correct. I feel that now-a-days so many people are taking religion and religious aspects of life and putting them into mainstream, secular ways of life for profit. Websites of these sort seem to take away from the intimacy and personal feel one gets while attending their respective church denominations. Though is primarily a Christian-themed SNS it allows for other denominations and religions to post as they feel on the site, leading to obscenity and hate messages toward other religious groups. After looking up religious SNS on google, I found that there are many of these sites. There is even a Christian Myspace. I'm a Christian myself who loves and adores my fellow Christians, but I think sites such as this myspace take away the connection you get when physically socializing and fellowshipping with members of your home church or place of worship. And another thing, majority of these SNS are Christian sites, are they trying to convert the entire world to Christianity as the "true religion?" So I raise the questions to my fellow classmates, are religious social networking sites replacing going to church and intimately fellowshipping? Should profit be made off of these sites? Do you take away the same messages from these sites as you would in a place of worship? Are they placed in a secular mainstream? Or Do you see nothing wrong with religious social networking sites?

  2. I agree that police “sting” operations are important and posing as children in chat rooms to catch pedophiles is a good idea. However, I am concerned with the impact of the police detectives’ attempts and how their attempts to stop child predators might actually enhance an individual’s child predatory behavior and sickness. This is probably a stretch, but it could explain why the statistics might not add up.

    I have used the sex offender website frequently. I have a younger brother and I look after children a lot, so I like to know where sex offenders reside and how close I might be to them. I looked to see what sex offenders live near my house in my hometown, and near my apartment in Chapel Hill. People get amusement and entertainment from a lot of things they shouldn’t and that’s impossible to prevent, but that doesn’t mean that the sex offender registry should be removed.

  3. I also agree that the police are morally right in their actions against pedophilia. I take a consequentialist position and I think that if the action results in the protection of innocent children then it is right. I know that some ethical perspectives see it as wrong because the police are lying, but I don't think that the harm of lying about one's identity in a chat room is no where as bad as the harm of an innocent child being molested, kid napped, or raped. I think that the predator show is hilarious, but I feel guilty laughing at something that involves such a serious matter and mental illness. I believe that this type of show may also bring light to a subject that many may not take notice of. So it may also be helpful. The consequences of this show are bringing humor to online sexual preying and mental illness and I find that cruel, but does that outweigh the possible good that it causes in finding these predators and bringing light to a matter that requires attention. I think that sexual registries are often used for humor, and studies suggest that they are not effective, and cause harm to the people on the registries. I think that for these reasons there should either be revision to the site so that there will be less harm to the offenders and more benefit to potential prey, or a new alternative way of decreasing sexual offenses.

  4. I agree with the above posts that there is nothing morally unjust with any type of sting operation. These operations are occurring in order to stop something else from happening, which in most cases this action they are stopping is morally wrong. While there may be no statistics as to whether the illegal acts have decreased due to the authority actions, I do believe that it affects the people attempting the acts.

    You mention Chris Hansen's show "To Catch a Predator", sure it may be entertaining to some, that is not it's main point. The point of this show is to prove to people that they are not invincible to authorities and to scare pedophiles. Sting operations of this sort and other reality stings are meant to be motivation for these actions to to happen in the first place. These stings need to continue to make the impact in the minds of those preforming the illegal acts that there is indeed a possibility of being caught "in the act".

  5. The agreement with above posts continues. Sting operations revolve around deceit, but this deceit is for the good of society. The benefit to society and to the potential victims of such pedophiles far outweigh the concealed officer.

    As far as online sex offender registries and shows like "To Catch a Predator" go, like Austin said the point is to bring awareness to parents of the possibility of contact between their children and these predators as well as to send a warning to these predators that they can be caught. People are entertained by a lot, and as far as I’m concerned the pedophile deserves this humiliation.

  6. In purpose, I believe sting operations trying to catch pedophiles are justified. However, the way in which they are paraded on television is, in my opinion, inhumane. While there is something to be said for the possibility of deterring others from participating in this activity, my gut reaction is that those who are interested in this type of activity, most likely aren't deterred by the threat of police action, thinking that they'll never be the one to get caught. There are also some questions regarding the line of consent especially as minors become sexually active at younger and younger ages.

    Most importantly however is the research that shows the majority of sexual abuse toward children occurs with acquaintances. The resources devoted to these sting operations should be used to educated children and parents about how to best protect against sexual violence.

  7. I definitely believe that sting operations dealing with pedophiles are in good moral standing and that they should continue. On the other hand, from a legal perspective, they walk a very fine line. What I mean by this is that there is an ambiguous gray area in these operations that is entrapment. Basically the only real defense that these pedophiles have in a court room is either mental instability, or entrapment - and entrapment is a powerful stance.
    I actually wasn't sure if these operations could be considered entrapment when I first thought about the topic, but then I began to read about it and found that it is a pretty common argument in courtrooms. The defining line comes when the officer that is posing as a child either initiates sexual conversation or lets the offender initiate it. I found a journal article discussing this dilemma and the interesting thing about it is that when an undercover agent initiates a sexual conversation first, the defendant tends to be found innocent more frequently. It is for this reason that I feel these sting operations are only effective if they are carefully and strategically carried out.

    The article that I found about this is located here:

  8. I agree that the use of sting operations in any form are for the good of society. In certain issues i think limits on what the police can do should be lifted. I think that anyone who is a law abiding citizen would agree that people doing things wrong need to be caught. I also agree that watching shows about pedophiles for amusement is unnecessary and borderline unethical. Although these people are doing something wrong, they don't deserve to be shown on tv for everyone to see, and despite a show's claim that a show is to spread awareness or whatever, their primary goal is to get ratings and make money.

  9. I agree with the sting operations in that they
    have "good" outcomes. Countless numbers of children and teenagers have died as a result of internet pedophiles, and they must be stopped. If a life is on the line, any means to save it is a "good" thing.

    I think that the television series "to catch a predator" serves a similar function as the sex offender registry. Yes, it does seem a bit invasive and possibly presumptuous, but these people do have serious problems and make conscious (or possibly unconscious) decisions to act in the way they do. Regardless of motivations for action, they act and follow-through... and if they're caught, our society is better off for it.

    An online article, found here:
    offers further insight and statistics about the watchdogs.
    "A National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) study comparing youth online experiences in 1999-2000 with those in 2005 offers both good and bad news for those concerned about Internet safety.

    The study revealed a pronounced increase in Internet users ages 10 to 17 reporting exposure to unwanted pornography — fully one-third in 2005 compared to 25 percent previously. There also was an increase in online harassment, which rose to 9 percent compared to 6 percent in the earlier survey. The study also reported online youth received fewer unwanted online sexual solicitations, only one in seven in 2005 compared to one in five youth in 1999-2000.

    Unfortunately, the most serious kinds of sexual solicitations, those in which solicitors attempted to make offline contact with youth, did not decline. According to study authors, this suggests the most determined solicitors have not been deterred and that more targeted prevention efforts may be necessary."

  10. I'm not sure seeing these pedophiles busted or seeing pictures of them is seen as amusing, or if many americans view this simply as justice being served. As far as the sting operations, I see them as extremely beneficial in tracking down and capturing pedophiles. Clearly, not all pedophiles will be caught as there are thousands out there, however, one more pedophile behind bars in one less pedophile potentially harming young children. As far as deterring behavior in chat rooms, I feel as if some pedophiles may be scared away, while others are simply more careful in gaining the trust of the young children they plan on assaulting.

  11. While I don't necessarily find looking at online sex offender registries or watching To Catch a Predator amusing, I do find it to be in the smallest way interesting. I just cant wrap my head around people that do those thins, so clearly people are going to be interested in a topic that people know very little about. The same can be said for the TV show Cops. It might be entertaining, but its more interesting than amusing. People like watching things that they themselves dont understand: I dont understand pedophelia or why so many people get arrested for such stupid things. I dont watch the shows, but I dont really think its wrong to watch them. They are doing illegal things and getting themselves into these situations.

  12. Regardless of the means, child predators need to be identified and prosecuted. "Sting" operations are valuable on multiple levels, as they serve to catch those engaging in pedophilia, and their existence deters those other pedophiles in giving in to their temptations.

    As for witnessing the "busting" of these pedophiles on shows like "To Catch a Predator," I have no problem. My assumption is that the public disgrace increases the consequences, and serves as another deterrent.