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August 5, 2009

Danger Junkies

del harvey

Del Harvey

Photo Credit: Andrew Hetherington

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Del Harvey, 27, San Francisco; coadministrator of Perverted Justice, a watchdog group committed to catching sexual predators

WHAT I DO: Bust men who prey on kids for sex. To do so, I work with police across the country to set up stings. For instance, I'll pose as a 13-year-old girl in an online chat room, and when a pedophile suggests that we meet somewhere, I'll name a place, like a beach. Then, surprise: The police are there waiting for the guy, with handcuffs.

SKEEVY BUSINESS: My very first chat with a predator was also my number-one slimiest bust. I went online pretending to be a girl who felt unloved. A man calling himself Fleet Captain Jamie Wolf started chatting with me, saying things that would make a kid feel special. "Oh, your parents don't appreciate you," he said. He was scarily smooth, and different than a lot of guys, who take a more direct approach — such as sending photos of their penises.

WHY SEND PENIS PICTURES? Some men say it's a turn-on; others say it's just what people do on the Internet. Also, let's face it, these guys aren't exactly socially adept. I've received so many photos, I had to create an archival system, in order to save the shots as evidence. So now I have lots of penises on my hard drive.

MAJOR MISHAP: For a while I acted as a decoy on Dateline's To Catch a Predator series, meaning I posed as the kid the pedophiles were coming to meet. I looked young enough to fool the guys for a few seconds before the police would pounce. But once, I met a man on a park bench in Long Beach, and the officers didn't pop out immediately, due to a miscommunication. I had to entertain the guy; he touched my foot and said, "I thought you were gonna paint your toenails." It really freaked me out.

WORST PART OF THE JOB: Trying to wrap my head around the things these men do, especially if they're doctors or teachers.

BEST PART: Getting creeps off the street. We've had more than 400 convictions so far.


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