Pedobear icon viewed by DOJ as breadcrumb trail to sex offenders. (IMG: S.Ragan)
During the recent AntiSec raid against the U.S. Department of Justice, thousands of emails and law enforcement sensitive documents were leaked to the public. One of them reports on a well-known Internet meme, Pedobear, and says that the related iconography can be used to find pedophiles.
The document tackles the topic of a “seemingly innocent menace” to the world, and introduces Pedobear law enforcement. As it turns out, the child-loving, animated Winter Olympic mascot was the topic of a bulletin issued by the DOJ’s S.A.F.E. Sex Offender Task Force, in San Diego.
It’s troubling to see the police worried about an Internet meme, but we can’t make this stuff up. An earlier draft of this report was previously covered last year by Gawker. This new version includes a personal account from one law enforcement official, and mentions using Pedobear images to track sex offenders. [Gawker’s coverage]
As Gawker reported last year, someone from the San Luis Obispo County Sheriff's Department, went off the deep end, ignored Wikipedia and countless other sources, and created a public warning against Pedobear. Local media (KSBY-TV) said that the law enforcement agency told them “pedophiles have adopted the bear as a mascot.”
“Although there have been no reported sightings of the image on the Central Coast, individuals dressed in the bear costume and car decals have been seen in Southern California,” KSBY said in their report.
Now as it turns out, the Southern California sighting was the San Diego Comic Con in 2010. The police were wrong, there’s no other way to put it, but Gawker sums it up with, “anyone spotted with pedobear paraphernalia - is a nerd who spends too much time on the Internet.”
The latest bulletin from the DOJ however, not only includes the Comic Con story, but some other additional insights previously unseen.
From the DOJ:
“In our brief experience with Pedo Bear, it appears that his image is used as a way for pedophiles and sexually-preferential offenders to identify each other. Pedo Bear’s image may also be a means of identifying locations on the internet, a type of computer breadcrumb trail...
“Just before the release of this Bulletin, I had occasion to make a home visit to one of the sex offenders under my jurisdiction. His conviction offense involves sexually assaultive behavior on a child. He lives in a roommate situation with several other young, single men in an otherwise normal, Mira Mesa neighborhood. After completing my contact with him, I noticed, on the lower, front windshield of one of his roommate’s cars, a familiar image. Pedo Bear out in the open.
“The intention of this bulletin is to make all law enforcement aware of a possible indicator of individuals who might have a predilection to sexually inappropriate, or even, assaultive behavior. While not an absolute, the image of Pedo Bear should be a sign that you should take a closer look at the individual(s) or situation you are dealing with, and perhaps his presence will act as a building block towards developing probable cause, or even a case. And from photos on the internet, Comic Con is just one of the events Pedo Bear attends. Be aware of your community events and who might be lurking.
“The SD SAFE Task Force is very interested in any contacts you may have that involve Pedo Bear. My contact information is below, and we would appreciate copies of any documentation that comes from contacts in which Pedo Bear was a factor...,” the memo states.
This is your tax dollars at work. If you haven’t taught your kids not to take candy from a stranger, especially if the stranger is dressed like a bear, then there is something seriously wrong with that.
We won’t even touch the silly notion that someone with a car decal has publically branded themselves, or that websites with Pedobear icons are some sort of hangout. If that were the case, then Oh Internet, Memebase (or really the entire CheezBurger Network), and even Pedobear.org are in all sorts of trouble.