For three years, Dateline NBC viewers have seen correspondent Chris Hansen come face-to-face with potential pedophiles on his popular To Catch a Predator series. Gayle talks with Chris about taking part in nearly a dozen sting operations aimed to charge adults with the crime of soliciting young teens for sex on the Internet.
Working with local police and the watchdog group Perverted Justice, Chris says that he has been part of 11 stings, involving 286 men soliciting 13- or 14-year-olds for sex online. Two-hundred fifty-six of these men have been arrested and 118 convicted or pleaded guilty to the crime. While Chris has come face-to-face with many suspected predators, he says the experience is always a little unnerving. "You are always a little on edge because you never know 100 percent what each guy is going to do," he says. "But I am comfortable with the amount of security we have in place for me and the rest of the crew."
Chris says that at least half of the men he encounters while taking part in the sting operations recognize him from previous To Catch a Predator shows. While some try to run when Chris enters the room, others will sit and talk with Chris before being hauled away by police. "I want them to talk to me, I want to get in their minds and figure out what happened, what they were thinking that led them to show up and put themselves in this situation," he says.
Thanks to the To Catch a Predator series, Chris says that parents, teens and the rest of the public are better aware of Internet predators. He says the experience has also allowed him to be a more effective journalist. "One of the benefits of the computer predator series is it has reminded us how important it is to be enterprising and to do impact journalism and we can do it in a lot of ways with a lot of topics."