When 29-year old Timothy Craig of Rising Sun showed up outside the AMC Theater in Bel Air last week, he was prepared to live out his dream.
A wet dream, according to charging documents, after he had masturbated in videos on the social media app "Kik" while convincing a 14-year-old girl to rendezvous with him for sex.
But the adolescent turned out to be an undercover officer with Harford County's Child Advocacy Center, and police arrested him on the spot.
"Predators---they are out there and they're actively trying to harm our kids," cautioned the center’s director, Lt. Veto Mentzell, who says the chat rooms designed for children serve as hunting grounds for predators, and stings like this one routinely attract adults trying to exploit them, "It's very always clearly communicated that they are talking to an underage person, and a lot of times, the conversation will roll back a little bit about that point, but eventually they'll always overcome their apprehensions because their goal is to meet a child. So they're going to rationalize it, do what they need to do, to make that happen."
Mentzell says, typically, the men are in their mid-twenties seeking girls ranging in age from 11 to 16 years old, and there's no shortage of perps who take the bait.
"I think the reality is it's probably going on far more than anyone ever knows or realizes---far more than we could even keep pace with,” said Mentzell, “We did six of these last year. We probably could have done 12. We probably could have done 24."
The advocacy center also tries to educate children about the dangers of meeting strangers through social media, and they encourage parents to monitor their use.
In this case, even though Craig faces a felony charge of soliciting a minor for sex, his bail was only set at $5,000 and he has since posted it or at least fraction of it since a recent trend finds the courts setting lower bails so poor people aren't disproportionally held behind bars.