Caught in the Net

The Web was a pedophile's paradise -- until Mike and Cassandra Harris logged on.

Penry has since logged more than eighty hours of training with the Center for Missing and Exploited Children; this year his unit was awarded a federal grant to beef up its operations. But despite his growing expertise, Penry says he still turns to Harris. "A lot of other investigators, myself included, have a lot of respect and admiration for him," he says. "He's been doing this for a long time. It takes a lot of dedication to do this -- it's a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week job. And if there's anyone who's dedicated to this, it's Mike Harris. He does it for the kids.

"Mike will bend over backwards to help anyone trying to help these kids."

Harris recently returned to an old stamping ground to help the Littleton Police Department with an Internet case. Harris is helping Littleton "prepare for the future of computer crime," Commander Bob Brandt says. "We know it's going on, and a lot of it isn't being reported. The problem is that it's very personnel-intensive, and unless you have someone to whom you can say, 'Okay, this is your primary area of focus,' it's difficult to be proactive like Mike and Cassandra."

 
Scott Laumenn
 
Mike and Cassandra Harris have a line on pedophiles.
John Johnston
Mike and Cassandra Harris have a line on pedophiles.

But being too active has its drawbacks. This past spring, military police in another state spotted a cheerleader picture being used as a screensaver on a perpetrator's computer; an FBI agent recognized the photograph as Cassandra and contacted the Jeffco team.

Cassandra was simply becoming too well known. The risk that she could be set up was growing with every picture of Katie, Kendra, Tommy, Tigger and the others sent out over the Web. So Jeffco decided to retire her face, as well as the Cutie2kewl moniker.

Although Cassandra still works on Internet cases, she now stays behind the scenes. In recent weeks, the team has found three volunteers to take her place on the front lines.

"It'll be strange watching from another viewpoint," she admits. "I used to get so hyped up and into these roles, knowing I was replacing some kid. But it was time."

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