Masters of Disguise: Spotting a Human Predator


What is a human predator?

Think about all the people you encounter every day. The woman sitting next to you at Starbucks. The student in the back of your classroom. The man you picked up in your Uber. A human predator can come in all sizes, shapes, ages, and colors. It does not matter what profession you happen to work in: you could be a priest, a law enforcement officer, a member of the military, or even a teacher. There may always be someone who has the desire to take advantage of you.

My definition of a human predator is one who tries to take advantage of someone who is weak and/or having a vulnerable moment.  They prey on others’ fragilities, whether it’s a small child, an intoxicated person, or a woman in a dark parking lot.

Exposing these predators in the media and through criminal prosecution is important because it unmasks the real identity of predators. It forces the ones who lurk in the dark to face the light and the music. The media continues to expose the bad behavior of Catholic priests and child abuse, online child predators, and more recently Uber drivers attacks on vulnerable women.

The more we hear about these things, the more we are aware that it can happen anywhere to anyone. Recently the FBI uncovered child predators here in Pittsburgh through two different sting operations. No town is immune to this sinister problem.

How can we identify a human predator?

That brings me to the question of “How can we identify a ‘Human Predator’”?  It is extremely challenging, as these individuals have learned to blend in and hide in plain sight. The biggest problem is predators who attack young children. They target their naivety and inexperience and use the cloak of online anonymity to lure them in. Parents should pay attention to their child and any recent or unusual behavior. This could range from lack of concentration to the child acting out in school or with friends. A once happy and outgoing child could become sad and withdrawn or a well-behaved child could start showing dangerous behavior.

Protect your children.

Parents should constantly monitor the child and ask questions in a responsible way. Don’t accuse a child or use extreme punishments but be open and caring and let them know that you are only looking out for their best interests. Make sure to monitor their online activity and limit screen time. There are many online platforms and software programs that allow parents to track what their children are looking at on their devices.

Protect yourself.

Using common sense and that “gut feeling” that we all have can help us avoid potentially dangerous situations. You should always be aware of your surroundings.  Avoid traveling alone at night in major US cities. If you are using a car service, such as Uber, make sure you are familiar with the route you want to go. Bring up your map app on your phone and pay attention to your starting and end points. Notice buildings, street signs, or points of interest along the way. Before you get into the car, verify the driver’s identity and car against what the app told you when you placed the request. Ask the driver to confirm the name of his passenger he was sent to pick up. I also recommend, at a minimum, that you always carry pepper spray. Don’t hesitate to use it if you feel threatened in any way. It may be your only hope for escape in the worst situation.

Not only Pittsburgh and Cleveland.

Predators are everywhere; in every city and town across the globe. We must take every precaution in our daily lives to ensure that we do not fall victim to those that want only to do us harm. And we must, as citizens and parents, be hyper-vigilant about the safety of our children and other vulnerable members of our community. The more we become aware and cognizant of the problem, the better equipped we are to help prevent the worst from happening.

As private investigators in the Cleveland and Pittsburgh areas, we see the devistation a human predator can inflict on families.  Please feel free to give us a call for advice or surveillance you may need.  At Forletta our goal is to assist in keeping the Cleveland and Pittsburgh areas as safe as possible.