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Published: 8/20/2003

Lima police keep heat on Internet sex crimes

BY KIM BATES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Police in Lima, Ohio, put the warning out a year ago: They would be diligent about tracking down men who desire sex with teenage girls.

But after a well-publicized sting operation that's netted 14 such arrests, including a former physician and a school band director, police are continuing to nab offenders who arrive in town thinking they're going to have sex with a youth.

City police made their latest arrest at noon Monday after a Columbus man allegedly drove to Lima shortly after he chatted online with a person he believed was a 14-year-old girl.

That man, Kevin Burchett, 30, was arrested on the city's east side and charged with one count of importuning less than two hours after he allegedly solicited sex from the girl.

He remained in the Allen County jail yesterday in lieu of $5,000 bond. An Aug. 29 preliminary hearing was scheduled in Lima Municipal Court.

“I'm amazed at the amount of traffic that's out there,” said Sgt. Brian Leary, who supervises the police department's Proactive Crime Enforcement unit.

“We just know we plan on continuing [our effort],” Sergeant Leary said yesterday. “It's definitely a problem.”

The PACE unit, which was started in March of 2002, primarily to tackle drugs, gangs, and prostitution in Lima, formed an Internet operation five months later to track potential sex offenders.

In the Internet operation - one of only two like it across the state - Lima police Investigator Jeff Kinkle poses as a 14-year-old girl on-line.

Since last August, Mr. Kinkle has been using the very same photograph and description of a girl to entice adults into chatting with him online.

Once the offender suggests having sex, Mr. Kinkle sets up a meeting location in town where the perpetrator ultimately is met by up to eight police officers.

Mr. Kinkle said most of the meetings are scheduled after two to three conversations on-line, with the quickest arrest made only an hour after the initial contact was made via computer.

Despite the continuing arrests, Mr. Kinkle said he is noticing a major decrease in the online activity. He also believes the effort is having an impact.

“I think the word is out to stay away from the Lima area,” Mr. Kinkle said. “That was our goal.”

One of the cases involved Dr. Geoffrey Snyder, 36, of Lewisville, Ohio, a physician and former Monroe County, Ohio, coroner.

Last month Snyder was placed on probation for five years and ordered to perform 200 hours of community service after he pleaded no contest to and was found guilty of one count of importuning, a fifth-degree felony.

In addition, Snyder was ordered to spend 45 days in the Allen County jail, a sentence that was delayed while his attorney appeals the conviction.



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