Local and regional agencies are making strides in the fight against online predators, but much work remains to be done

By Julia Merchant • Staff Writer

It’s a scenario that plays out every day: A bored 12-year-old girl named Crystal enters a Yahoo chatroom. Immediately, a screen pops up. “A/S/L/?” — age, sex, location? — another chat user inquires. Within minutes, Crystal has revealed that she’s a seventh-grader who lives in Waynesville, N.C., and she’s on the computer while both her parents (whom she’s mad at) are at work. The user Crystal is chatting with — a 13-year-old boy — sympathizes with her about fighting with her parents. Suddenly, Crystal has a new friend she can confide in.

Getting connected: Regional internet access on the upswing

By Jennifer Garlesky • Staff Writer

Tommy Calhoun of Whittier stares at a web page on his white Mac notebook’s screen. He is checking his email at Bubacz’s Underground, a coffee shop in downtown Sylva. Connecting to the Underground’s wireless Internet service is much more convenient for Calhoun than connecting to the Internet at his mountain home, where he has dial-up service.

Waynesville PD net 6 arrests in Internet sex sting

When Crystal Shuler posted an ad on Craig’s List this summer offering a full-service massage in Waynesville, she was flooded with email responses, more than 70 to be exact.

Shuler, a Waynesville police detective, wasn’t actually surfing for action but instead was launching a sting operation on a growing outlet for prostitution. Craig’s List, an on-line classified section for people buying and selling stuff from cars to baby clothes, has seen an explosion of entries under one category in particular — “erotic services.”

In your Internet ear

Just before Christmas, singer/songwriter Ashley Chambliss of Sylva got an email from the online music site where her music is available for download. She would be receiving a deposit into her bank account.

Newspapers in need of iPod moment

We in the newspaper business are supposed to be having the bejesus scared out of us because of the power of the Internet. And right now, as people are spending billions making Internet purchases for Christmas, this fact is hitting home. Soon, we who put out traditional newspapers will be forgotten, quaint relics from the past.

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