People who wish to use Internet services to meet others should seriously consider taking precautions. Yesterday a convicted sex offender was arrested in Florida and the police have good reason to believe he had something to do with the dissapearance of a 19-year-old college student he met on the Internet.
The student, Donna Jou, lived with her mother in Rancho Santa Margarita, and was a biology student at San Diego State University. She was an honor student with excellent grades. The suspect - John Steven Burgess, was a registered sex offender who lived in Los Angeles. The two of them met on the Internet and Ms. Jou has not been seen since she was seen with Mr. Burgess on their first date.
Shortly after Ms. Jou's disappearance, Mr. Burgess conveniently left California, leaving behind a trail of evidence that shows he probably had something to do with Ms. Jou's disappearance.
This case illustrates how dangerous it can be to meet people on the Internet, however, before I talk about the dangers associated with Internet dating, let me state that I believe the Internet is a great method of meeting people. Many of my clients that have trouble meeting others (especially my recently divorced clients), look to the Internet for opportunities to meet quality people. However, given that predators are also using these Internet services, a great deal of precaution should be taken before you agree to meet face to face with somebody you met on the Internet.
At a minimum, the following three precautionary measures should be taken when meeting somebody face to face for the first time:
1) If possible, conduct a background check on the person you are meeting. There are several Internet sites that should be checked as a rule, such as the registered sex offender's site;
2) Do not meet with the person alone on your first date. Bring a friend or family member with you when you meet your date for the first time; and
3) Insist on meeting with the person in a public place.
This case also shows us that the people who argue that we should be electronically monitoring sex offenders with global tracking devices are not so crazy after all. If these people are to be allowed to continue living within our communities, they have to be closely monitored for a significant period of time to ensure they will not re-offend.
Written by Donald P. Schweitzer