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Detective Reveals What Child Molesters Look For In Social Media Profiles

MOUNTAIN VIEW (KPIX 5) - Mountain View police say the arrest of a former San Francisco high school teacher earlier this month revealed just how effective an online profile can be at driving a child predator straight into the hands of police.

Harlan Edelman, a 52-year-old San Francisco resident, allegedly contacted a Mountain View Police Department detective who was posing as a 17-year-old male on a social network.

Police say Edelman sent sexual photos to the supposed teen before arranging to meet for sex at Cuesta Park in Mountain View. That boy turned out to be an undercover detective. By the time Edelman got to the meeting spot, Mountain View Police had the park surrounded. They swooped in and arrested him.

Mountain View detective Jessica Nanez couldn't talk about the specifics of that case because it is still ongoing, but agreed to share some tips on how a predator operates. It all starts with a few keywords in the child's Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other profiles, such as "teen," "young," "girl," "teenie," "young boy."

"That's all it takes for a predator to bite." Said Nanez.

Nanez said photos of children with their mouths open and tongues sticking out also tend to turn on molesters, as do pictures of kids in swimsuits.

"Predators will see this and they'll do whatever they can to find your child and pull them in," said Nanez.

She says they then begin a "grooming process," where they wait until the child posts about being bored, lonely or sad, then send an email.

"Child predators will prey on the weaknesses of a child," said Nanez. "They want to know what your child is into, what are their likes and dislikes. As a result of that, they build a trust, and an emotional bond with your child."

Officers say they then often offer gifts like phones, clothes or cash before trying to get a sense of the family's daily schedule. Then they try to set up a meeting when the parents aren't home.

Detectives said Edelman's case was textbook. Edeleman faces several charges, including soliciting a minor for a sex crime. Officials say there is no reason to believe Edelman's arrest is in any way related to his work with San Francisco schools.

Mountain View Police, and many other agencies, maintain several fake profiles on social media.

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