Elite Texas cyber crimes unit fights online sex predators

KSAT gets behind-the-scenes look at Texas Attorney General's Cyber Crimes Unit


In a windowless room in downtown Austin, three men sit at computers, the contents of their screens a horrific mix of conversations, pictures, and images -- all of them involving children in sexual situations.

But these men are not criminals.

They are the men tasked with tracking down the criminals as members of the Texas Attorney General's Cyber Crimes Unit.

"These guys sit here day in and day out seeing things that you're average person would hope never to see in their lives," said Captain Kimberly Bustos, the unit's commander.

Their job is to lure potential predators into conversations online, often posing as teenage girls to do so.

Seeing a 50 year-old detective write teenage slang like "OMG" and "IDK" can be disconcerting, but it works.

Chat box after chat box pops up, with perverts hiding behind screen names soliciting sex.

"It can be incredibly disturbing stuff and very overwhelming for our detectives," said Bustos.

Messages asking if the "girl" likes older men and rough sex continually pop up. Many of the conversations are too vulgar to print.

The detective's job is to try and get that person to agree to meet in-person, and when they do, a host of detectives are there waiting to make the arrest.

A wall in the unit's office has pictures of the 150 or so men they've convinced to do just that.

But the unit doesn't only make arrests in person. In total, detectives brought more than 2,000 cases last year to district attorneys around the state.

"And it would be more than that if we had more manpower," said Bustos.

The work is grueling -- more mentally taxing than physically -- but the scars are left nonetheless.

"I have nightmares about this stuff," said Bustos. "I have trouble sleeping sometimes and I know my men do, too."

Bustos said many in the unit have children of their own, including herself, and that they all take it personally.

"Many of the victims here are the same age as our own kids, but by taking it personally, we've become very successful at what we do."

For a list of recent stories Matt Rivers has done, click here.