Effingham County hunts sex predators across Coastal Empire - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

Effingham County hunts sex predators across Coastal Empire

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Detective Joe Heath Detective Joe Heath

In the span of a half-hour, a WTOC crew watched a half-dozen men solicit sex from an investigator -- posing in a chat room as a mother looking to sell her 14-year-old daughter for sex.

"It'll blow your mind some of the thins some of these folks talk about," said Effingham County Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie.

That investigator heads up the Effingham County Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which seeks out these crimes far beyond the county's borders -- all over the coastal Empire.

McDuffie says their goal is, "to track down and get this off our streets before we have more victims. And unfortunately, those victims are our children."

One chatter asked whether this fictitious 14-year-old is thin and athletic like her 34-year-old mother, writing, "Hmm... I may get a good workout by you and your daughter as personal trainers."

Detective Joe Heath chats these guys up under multiple profiles until they decide to make a move -- to meet up for what they think will be sex with a child.

"The suspect at the time, he's leading the conversation," Heath said. "We're not taking them down any primrose path by any means."

Health does this all day, watching men ask, "Would you let your daughter go naked?" saying  "Let's talk a lil' (sic) business," men looking to buy an afternoon with a little girl for $160 dollars.

Heath is the father of three little girls.

"It's very rewarding because I feel like I may be protecting somebody else's child."

Heath recommends parents be suspicious, monitor a child's online behavior, have their passwords and find creative ways to look into their online accounts. These tips don't exactly score any popularity points with hi daughters.

"They call us creepers, because my wife and I monitor very heavily what they're doing," he said. "And I'd encourage all parents to become creepers."

For parents who haven't been monitoring children online, Heath says to look for secretive behavior like children not wanting to let you see their computers or closing them quickly when a parent comes into the room, or having secret accounts.

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