On April 23, 2021, charges were filed against 70-year-old James Jacob Derr of Lower Macungie Township for communications that allegedly occurred between Derr and an undercover police detective posing online as a 14-year-old girl. Derr is charged with two counts each of unlawful contact with minor, corruption of minor, promoting prostitution of minor and one count of criminal use of a communication facility. The CSE Institute also encourages the Northampton District Attorney’s office to charge Derr with trafficking in minors under 18 Pa.C.S. § 3011 (B) based on the proceeding facts.
Derr initially interacted with the detective when he purportedly messaged the detective’s undercover account, believing it belonged to a 14-year-old girl. He allegedly introduced himself as a 65-year-old man and offered the undercover detective money to meet in person. Derr allegedly offered $150 for the girl to meet up with him and $160 if she also brought her 9-year-old sister. He allegedly discussed having sexual encounters with both girls and set up a meeting with the undercover police officer in Bethlehem. Police took Derr into custody on April 23, 2021 and discovered he had the $160 he promised in his online messages. He also admitted to the police that he was using a cellphone to communicate with a person he believed was an underage girl.
It is not uncommon for sex buyers to use the internet to facilitate a commercial sex transaction. In fact, one study from 2016 found that 92% of active, high frequency sex buyers had browsed online for sex. Similarly, sex buyers and traffickers often use the internet to target vulnerable and unsuspecting youth. These online predators will sometimes use grooming tactics in order to get a minor to meet with them in person, as Derr did in this case. According to the FBI, there are currently an estimated 293,000 American children at risk of being trafficked for sex, most of them being girls between the ages of 12 and 14. One study found that, among hundreds of online prostitution ads where the stated age of the prostituted woman was 18-26, the verified ages actually ranged from 14 to 18. For this reason, it is critical that parents, guardians, caretakers, and law enforcement be aware of the prevalence of sexual predators targeting minors online.
The CSE Institute commends the Bethlehem police officers and Northampton District Attorney’s office for pursuing and charging Derr for attempting to buy a child for sex. However, we encourage prosecutors to take full advantage of Pennsylvania’s human trafficking statue and charge Derr with trafficking in minors under 18 Pa.C.S. § 3011 (B). In relevant part, 3011(b) provides that a person commits the crime of trafficking in minors if the person “entices, solicits, . . . [or] obtains . . . an individual,” resulting in “any sex act . . . for which anything of value is directly or indirectly given, promised to or received by any individual . . . and is induced or obtained from . . . [a] minor.” Derr’s alleged conduct to sexually exploit a child constitutes the crime of 18 Pa.C.S. § 3011 (B) and he should be charged accordingly. It is critical that authorities target those that drive the demand for commercial sex, especially those who exploit children. Only by targeting this demand that drives the commercial sex industry will the number of individuals exploited by the industry be reduced. The CSE Institute will provide updates to this case once they become available.