Man arrested on suspicion of possessing illicit images, videos of children

By Gina Yarbrough

Escondido, CA–An investigation led by an out-of-state cyber vigilante group resulted in the arrest of an Escondido man on charges of possession of illicit images and videos of children, Escondido Police Department said.

On May 24, the Escondido Police Department received a phone call from the vigilante group who reported they had been communicating with a 45-year-old man who had engaged in an illicit sexual conversation with an adult decoy who was posing as a child. The group drove to Escondido and confronted the man at his residence. The group contacted the Escondido police to inform them of their current situation and what led up to the confrontation with the man. According to the Escondido Police Department, officers at that time did not have probable cause to make an arrest of the man.

Escondido police encouraged the group to present evidence of their communications with the man at the department. Detectives from the Family Protection and Child Exploitation Unit met with the group and obtained evidence of communication between the man, identified as Douglas Smith, and the decoy. 

The detectives, who are also members of the San Diego Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, initiated an investigation and developed probable cause to obtain the issuance of a search warrant to seize electronic devices from Smith at his residence in Escondido. 

Detectives spent several weeks reviewing the extensive electronic data from Smith’s devices and determined he was in possession of hundreds of images and videos of child sexual abuse material.

With the discovery of the material following the lengthy and complex investigation, detectives placed Smith under arrest for felony possession of child sexual assault material on Friday at his new residence in Vista.

The Escondido Police Department along with the San Diego County District Attorney’s Office discourages cyber vigilantism and encourages anyone with information related to child sexual abuse, exploitation, or online sexual enticement of a child to contact their local law enforcement agency or the San Diego ICAC. 

Law enforcement investigating these types of crimes have specialized training and follow specific protocols established by ICAC which ensure proper preservation of evidence and professional investigation. 

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