Close Call With Child Predator A Community Lesson


When he was arrested, we slipped in the story on page 8A of the newspaper. We gave the story more prominence on the front page in the following edition, Tuesday's paper, when we discovered more about who he was and exactly where he had been in our community.

A man accused of child pornography in California -- of photographing minors in sexually explicit positions -- was discovered working at Camp Geronimo with Boy Scouts.

Our first question for the people who hire at the camp was, "How could this have happened?"

The spokesperson told the Payson Roundup that a federal background check was run on the man, Wesley Elvis Peden, and no record was found.

This proves that background checks are not fail- proof and that any organization that deals with children needs to put as many safeguards in place as possible to ensure the safety of our children.

The Boy Scouts of America, founded in 1910, has been in the business of leading young men into adulthood through almost a century of significant changes in our society.

As a result, they are ahead of many groups when it comes to putting policies in place to protect children from predatory adults, as well as protecting adults from the malicious lies of an angry child.

On their Web site, the Boy Scouts list these rules. The first on the list is called "two-deep leadership," wherein no adult should ever be alone with a child. Adults must always work in pairs.

The leaders at Camp Geronimo told the Roundup that even though Peden -- a man wanted in another state for crimes against children -- was a wolf in the sheep pen, the children at the camp were safe, because he was never left alone. He was always paired with someone else.

Every organization with children in its care should have policies in place such as the "two-deep leadership." It is cumbersome, but as we just learned by Camp Geronimo's example, it is necessary.

This responsibility is not only in the hands of our local nonprofit organizations and schools. It is also in the hands of parents at home. Parents need to be proactive and talk to their children about appropriate touch and behavior.

The Web site, offers advice for parents of preschool and kindergarten-age children.

For parents of older children, a large portion of the Web page on youth protection talks about the immense amount of pressure children are under to keep molestation a secret.

As history is told, the Boy Scouts are not infallible and parents must get to know their child's leader and decide on their own terms whether to trust him.

In this case, we hope the Boy Scouts policies were effective. (We would like to encourage any parents or children who know differently to contact the FBI by calling (602) 279-5511.)

From this brush our community's children just had with a devious individual, we would like to encourage any local group to face the hard facts that small town America is not what it once was and we should never be lulled into a false feeling of safety.

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