Pedobear Goes From Internet Meme to Safety Concern
By Carlton Purvis
Created 11/29/2011 - 16:08
By Carlton Purvis
For law enforcement in the southwest, Pedobear is the meme that just won’t go away.
Internet memes  die hard. And for law enforcement in the southwest, Pedobear is the meme that just won’t go away. Authorities in New Mexico say the meme has been adopted by sexual predators targeting children – a claim being laughed off by blogs and Internet meme trackers who say Pedobear is a harmless joke.
Pedobear is a character made to mock pedophilia that first appeared on the Internet forum 4chan and subsequently spread throughout the Internet, according to Urlesque’s Meme Tracker. Pedobear’s image, a brown beady-eyed teddy bear is often photoshopped into otherwise harmless images online to add an element of implied inappropriateness for humor. Authorities aren't laughing.
“Our Internet Crimes Against Children unit has received reports that the Pedobear window sticker has been sighted in Albuquerque on at least two vehicles recently,” New Mexico attorney general Gary Kind said. The stickers can be purchased from a number of places online.
“The bear is cute, but that is what the pedophiles are using to identify each other,” said Lynn Southard of the New Mexico Attorney General’s office in an interview with Albuquerque news station KRQE. Southard also said Pedobear was placed in children’s games online to attract them to pedophiles’ Web sites.
The San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office last year disturbed a bulletin it was provided by the Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement San Diego Task Force (SAFE). SAFE monitors and tracks sex offenders and conducts training for local law enforcement agencies. The bulletin said the task force had come across images of Pedobear “in situations during which they were contacting those that exploit and/or abuse children.” SAFE says Pedobear should be associated with pedophiles and sexually-preferential offenders who use him to communicate their interests in young children to each other.
“The Internet postings and photographs, some photo-shopped, some not, refer to children in a sexually provocative manner. His cute face and non-threatening appearance negate the truth of his sinister, much darker side,” the bulletin states. (Page 1, Page 2)
San Luis Obispo County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Rob Bryn was surprised that the Pedobear turned up in the news once again because the bulletin was actually issued around two years ago.
Internet sites and bloggers had a field day in 2010 after the San Luis Obispo Sheriff’s Office distributed the bulletin, saying law enforcement just don’t understand Internet memes and slamming their lack of knowledge of Internet culture.
Gawker’s Adrian Chen says Pedobear is one of the Internet’s most popular memes. In a post from last year titled “Stupid California Police Warn Parents of Pedobear, the ‘Pedophile Mascot’,” Chen wrote, “Pedobear is a meme featuring a cute cartoon bear who pops up wherever people are being creepy about kids on the Internet. Cops in California don't understand this, and have issued a hilarious warning.”
In his post, Chen mocks law enforcement for suggesting that pedophiles would “brand themselves with a logo so we can easily identify them.”
“Jesus, cops can be dumb,” he wrote.
Bryn said, “We took a lot of heat – a lot of national heat on that story because people didn’t read the introduction to the press release that said … ‘We know all about the regular Pedobear thing that it’s supposed to be a joke.’ It’s not a very sensitive way [for the blogs to be] doing business because quite frankly if you’ve ever dealt with child molestation victims, it’s a very devastating situation.”
SAFE commander David Collazo says pedophiles using Pedobear is still an ongoing phenomenon. “Some people deny it, but more often than not agree that it is valid and that that image is related to child pornography on the Internet,” he said by phone on Tuesday. Collazo says pedophiles have used the image to direct others to child porn online.
“We investigate sex offenders every day of the year and we enter numerous sex offenders’ residences and we’ve come across multiple investigations and multiple interviews where Pedobear [was a factor].”
Gawker’s latest post describes Pedobear as “the Internet superstar who brings joy to millions as a cuddly harbinger of child predation.”
“This is not dark humor. This is not a joke… . We will pursue every lead that we get.” Southard said.