FREMONT POLICE RAMP UP EFFORTS TO CATCH SUSPECTED SEX OFFENDERS USING SOCIAL MEDIA
March 31, 2021
The News Messenger
FREMONT - Dads Against Predators brought a serious issue into the spotlight when its members posed as teens to set up sexual encounters with men around Sandusky County.
After several months, the group confronted around 40 men in the Fremont and Sandusky County area before moving on to Cleveland and as far west as Denver.
In total, the group — which is aimed at exposing people looking to have sex with minors — has confronted around 100 men and some women in an attempt to make their local community and country safer.
Becoming more proactive stopping sex offenders
While law enforcement leaders have called out the group for their ways, locally, saying their "vigilante justice" stings would not hold up in court, Fremont Police have since taken their own proactive approach to exposing potential predators in the area.
Jay Carnicom, a founding member of the D.A.P with Joshua Mundy, said he believes Fremont Police's recent activity in which three men were arrested this month is the direct result of what his group has done to expose the problem of child sex predators around the area.
"They told it to our faces that they didn't understand the severity of the problem, that we had opened their eyes to how big it was, particularly in Fremont," Carnicom said. "It's a proactive approach and I'm glad they're paying more attention to it now."
And Carnicom is right in many ways, as there are more than 100 registered sex offenders living in Sandusky County.
Whether D.A.P helped inspire more work or not, Carnicom said he is happy to see police becoming more active when it comes to removing potential predators from the streets.
Prior to January 2020, arrests would be made in sexual assault cases but D.A.P began the process of trying to expose potential threats before they acted.
A news conference was held by law enforcement leaders in January 2020 where leaders acknowledged the Dads Against Predators group brought more awareness to a growing problem while warning that what the group was doing may be illegal. And it was said that evidence collected by D.A.P could not be used against potential suspects due to the stings not being conducted under police surveillance.
Dean Bliss, Fremont Police Chief, said since the beginning of 2021, the department has arrested around 10 people in undercover work.
Since March, three men were arrested after police say they attempted to meet what they believed to be a minor male or female they had met on social media.
Bliss said multiple officers at the department are working by posing as teen girls and boys in an attempt to set up meetings with men who believe they will have a sexual encounter with a minor.
Thus far, officer Christian Ortolani has led the charge in setting up potential meetings with three men.
Fremont arrests ramping up
The city has doubled down on this issue, as Bliss said he has the support of the mayor's office to continue its work on catching potential offenders.
Recently, the department has has ramped up its activity as Fremont police arrested four men within three weeks of each other.
The first person arrested in March was Kevin Lowe, 46, of Port Clinton, who police say believed he was meeting a teen boy for sexual contact. He was charged with importuning and attempted sexual conduct with a minor.
Eight days later, two more men were charged with identical crimes, Todd Bollett, 29, of Fremont and John Kreidler, 55, of Sandusky.
Most recently, Justin Ball, 27, of Bellevue, was charged with attempted sexual conduct with a minor and importuning after agreeing to meet what he believed to be a 15-year-old boy for a sexual encounter in Fremont, according to police.
The department has also worked with other agencies, such as the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, Homeland Security and U.S. Secret Service on cases, that can often go beyond just men looking for sexual encounters and involve the downloading or sharing of child pornography, which can bring more severe charges.
Justin Keller, 30, of Toledo, was recently sentenced to 180 days in jail and ordered to register as a Tier 1 sex offender.
Keller was charged in July 2020 after a female agent posing as a teen girl set up a meeting with Keller, who said he wanted to perform oral sex on her
But police note that as more stings occur, more suspects may become wise to undercover work or become skeptics of certain social media used.
D.A.P. targets grew wary
Carnicom said D.A.P did meet issues with their strategy to confront potential sex offenders as the more the group met up with men, the more future targets would grow wary of whether they were talking to a real child or a member of Dads Against Predators.
So D.A.P took their tactics on the road, heading to bigger cities such as Cleveland and eventually going out of state.
Last fall, law enforcement officials released a statement that D.A.P could face criminal charges such as harassment after it was believed at least one person committed suicide following a confrontation with the group.
But that did not slow down the group, Carnicom said. Branching out was more the result of people in the area getting wise to the group, he said, and D.A.P. wanted to know how bad this issue is in other parts of the country.
The group went west to Iowa, Denver and Los Angeles to find people looking for sexual encounters with what they believed to be teen girls and boys.
Even during a pandemic, the group has continued its work at catching potential predators.
"We still get at the same rate," Carnicom said. "COVID doesn't change much at all. If anything I feel like they might feel a tad bit safer."
The group will continue, whether police or residents call it vigilantism or yeoman's work, to inform the community of potential wrongdoing.
"It's still a big problem and needs a lot more attention to the issue," Carnicom said.
Although D.A.P and local law enforcement did not work together, Carnicom did say the group worked briefly with Woodville Police and has worked with agencies outside Ohio to catch potential sex offenders.
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