By Tom Lyons
A local psychologist sees a lesson in the news of 43 men just arrested in Manatee County and charged with driving to a house to have sex with girls under 14 years of age.
The girls they had met in online chatrooms were fictional. As in many similar operations, they were actually cops. The house where the men went was full of law officers with handcuffs.
When Sue Krinsk (Facebook) called me about this, I first thought she was criticizing the operation. But she wasn't, she just saw a different key point than most of us might.
Krinsk is a psychologist who works with sex offenders of various sorts. Most are sent to her by court order. Part of her job is trying to determine which are beyond any likelihood of reform.
But she believes many don't fit that stereotype and usually aren't pedophiles, either. She insists the huge majority of those she deems fit for her therapy programs, and who can "graduate" from them, do not offend again.
But they are still branded as likely offenders for life. That branding is a serious problem, for two reasons, she says. It's not just that it makes the former offenders' lives very difficult, often in ways not helpful at all. She says it also gives the public the false notion that preventing sex offenses mostly just requires zealous monitoring of previous sex offenders.
Well, Krinsk says, a far greater number of potential or active offenders have never been caught. And Manatee Sheriff Brad Steube's sex sting just provided more evidence of that, she insists.
Of the 43 men arrested, only one was a registered sexual predator or offender.
Of course, Krinsk soon heard from that man's probation officer, saying "I told you so" about him. Or, anyway, that's how she took the message, though the offender wasn't one of her graduates.
But, Krinsk said, if the stereotype that every sex offender arrested is likely to re-offend were accurate, the 43 arrests surely should have included plenty more of them.
Maybe. Anyway, the headline she wants would say 97 percent of those guys had never been put on a flier or posted on a sexual offender website.
Steube told me that some of the 43 are now believed to have been far from new at seeking sex with girls under 14. Post-arrest interviews provided clues that some are regular cruisers, he said.
And, first time or not, it is a crime, he said. Those men got into a car and drove to have a sexual encounter with a way-underage girl.
"There's no excuse for that. None," Steube said.
Krinsk agrees, and says she isn't criticizing the technique law enforcement used and she isn't saying anyone was unfairly enticed or entrapped. She just thinks deputies should notice who was busted.
Overwhelmingly, it was apparently regular guys who would have passed background checks and who were never featured on neighborhood watch notices.
"We need to protect our children," Krinsk said, but not with extreme discrimination, forever, against anyone known to have committed any sexual offense.
For the most part, she said, "It's the ones that haven't been caught yet we need to worry about."
Stuebe said maybe Krinsk will get some of the arrested men as therapy clients. Fine with him, especially if she can sort some of them out.
Worrying about if they get stereotyped is not his main worry, I'm pretty sure. He's just glad 43 more are now known.