Late Night: Pedophiles, Parks, and Playgrounds

Kids playing in Central Park, NYC

A few years ago I was at a children’s playground with my sister-in-law and my two nephews. The younger boy was about 3 years old. My sister-in-law usually reads while the kids are playing, but being a doting aunt, I like to hang out with them as much as I can.

This day that I’m talking about, a small man, probably in his 50s, was hanging around by himself, watching the kids. He was carrying what looked like a very expensive camera. He started following my 3-year-old nephew around, snapping numerous pictures of him. He even asked me how old my nephew was and said, “he’s such a beautiful boy.”

Right away I had a bad feeling about the guy, so I asked him what he was doing. He gave me a hokey story about wanting to try out his new camera. So why do that in a kids playground? I asked if one of the kids was his, and he said no. From that point on, I didn’t leave my nephew’s side, and eventually the guy moved on.

I tried to talk to my sister-in-law about this incident, but she kind of blew me off. She seemed to think it was no big deal that this older man was hanging around a kid’s playground taking pictures.

Tonight I read a blog post that validated the thoughts I was having that day–that the man taking pictures was a pedophile who could very well be trading his photos with other pedophiles on-line. Most people don’t realize that child pornography is big business–especially now that photos can be shared on the internet.

If you wish, you can read the post via a link at The Hinky Meter. When you click on the link, you’ll get a warning that the material in the post could be disturbing. I didn’t find it all that surprising, but as a psychologist I may be more familiar with the behavior of pedophiles than many other people are.

In case you choose not to read the post, I’ll just say that it describes an outing by young schoolchildren in New York’s Central Park and the efforts of several fathers to chase off men trying to photograph the kids. The solution I learned from the post is to take photos of these guys and let them know that you’re hanging onto pictures of their faces for future reference.

The man who confessed to murdering Leiby Kletzky had been observed staring at neighborhood children and hanging around schoolyards and playgrounds. Now, it is being reported that he previously tried to abduct other boys. I’m not sure what can be done about people like this. It’s not against the law to take pictures of children, so I guess parents and other caregivers need to be on the lookout for these sickos.