PITTSBURGH - Target 11 is giving us a rare and exclusive look at a new unit that is putting away suspected child predators at a rapid pace.
“This is the child predator section where all the work gets done,” said Gordon Goodrow, the supervisor of the Child Predator Section in Harrisburg.
Goodrow took Investigator Rick Earle behind the secure doors where agents scour the internet for child pornography and chat with predators, a challenging task for agents posing as teens.
“I'm 53 years old and I'm portraying a 14-year-old girl. You have to learn what sizes you are,” explained Goodrow.
When she took office more than a year ago, Attorney General Kathleen Kane created the Child Predator Section, making this a top priority.
“To me prosecuting those who prey on our children is more important than anything,” said chief prosecutor Ellen Granahan.
Instead of waiting for crimes to happen, they are proactive, searching out online predators before they strike.
“We're doing most of these investigations and getting to people before they touch a live child,” said Tony Marmo, another prosecutor.
The effort has paid off.
Last year, agents arrested 114 people, compared to only 9 in 2012.
So far this year, they have arrested 49, including Jacob Meadows who investigators said came from out of state to meet who he thought was a 14-year-old girl.
“He traveled from Ohio into Butler County, for the purpose of meeting this girl for sex” said Marmo who said he was there for the arrest.
This unit is so secure that at the end of the day, they take all the trash cans and put them outside the door. They don’t want anyone else, even janitors, inside.
”Unless you are trained, some people can't handle it,” said Goodrow.
Even seasoned agents and attorneys said dealing with this day in and day out can be difficult.
“We see the worst of the worst, and we see children who can't defend themselves being abused and abused,” said Granahan.
With a 100 percent conviction rate, this section has yet to lose a case and the agents feel like they are making a difference.
The unit plans to add a Pittsburgh office within the month.