Kimberly Houk Reporting Another suspect has been caught trying to arrange sex with a teenager through the internet -- this time the accused is a respected firefighter. Police last night arrested Dennis Steadman, a Battalion Chief in the Unified Fire Authority in Salt Lake County.
Police say this kind of crime is becoming more and more common in Utah. Pedophiles are using internet chat rooms to choose their under-aged victims. And police are catching up to about two perpetrators a month.
Dennis Steadman has been fighting fires in Utah for the past 30 years. Now he's facing a different kind of heat -- allegations that he courted a 13-year old girl for sex, using the internet.
Kirk Torgensen, Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force: “It surprises you, cause you have a certain idea that these people are a certain level in our society, and can somewhat be trusted. And it's very disappointing when you find that that's not true."
For several weeks investigators watched as Steadman chatted over the internet with an officer posing as a 13-year old girl. They say it's standard to wait for the perpetrator to make known what he wants to do and when and where he wants to meet.
Kirk Torgensen, Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force: "We don't entice them at all. In fact, that's the very thing we don't do because it would be entrapment. We have to be very, very careful not to entrap the individual."
Investigators won't talk about specifics involving Steadman's case, but say a meeting was arranged by Steadman and officers were there waiting for him late last night.
Kirk Torgensen, Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force: "They're usually pretty surprised when it's a bunch of cops that show up and not a 13-year old girl."
And parents might be surprised to know how easy it is to trap kids talking in chat rooms on the internet.
Kenneth Hansen, Criminal Investigator: "One of the common things they do is get to know the child, act like they're their friend, talk about things that child might be interested in."
Kirk Torgensen, Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force: "It takes just minutes to get involved in chats that are sexually oriented."
Officers here in Utah patrol chat rooms about 10 hours a week, and they want perpetrators to know that if they go prowling on the internet, they do it at their own risk.
Steadman is being held with out bail. He's facing a second degree felony for exploitation of a minor over the internet.