A Baltimore balloon entertainer faces up to 10 years in prison after signing a plea agreement in which he admitted traveling to Lake County for sex with a 14-year-old boy he found through an Internet personal ad. A Lake sheriff's detective, part of an operation probing the Internet for sexual stalkers of children, placed the ad on Craigslist in the Orlando-area "Men Seeking Men" section. It was labeled "bored nephew." In the agreement, filed in federal court in Orlando, Howard Scott Kalin, 48, a lawyer and owner of Funhouse Entertainment Agency in Baltimore, pleaded guilty to one count of attempted enticement of a minor.... [Kalin] asked if the boy were "legal" but worried that he was chatting with a cop. The detective replied that the boy was 14 and "very curious." Kalin asked for pictures. "Wow … he is really cute," Kalin wrote after the detective sent an age-regressed, digital image of a fellow officer.

First off: I have no sympathy for middle-aged men who trawl the internet looking for minors, and you really gotta wonder about the IQ/desire to self-destruct of any man who encounters a 14-year-old boy or girl in an online chat room—or someone claiming to be the uncle of a 14-year-old boy—and doesn't immediately assume, as Kalin first did, that he's talking to a cop and then acts accordingly (closes the chat, shuts his laptop, burns his harddrive). But you also gotta wonder about the amount of time and money that the police pour into nailing these guys:

From January until his arrest in May, Kalin, who had returned to Maryland after the convention, chatted through Yahoo! Messenger with the detective, thinking he was communicating with the boy's uncle. They also traded text messages and spoke seven times on the phone.

The police spent five months cranking up this balloon twister. Anyone who publicly question the wisdom of that investment of time will immediately be accused of being soft on pedophiles and Internet predators. But is this really the best use of police time? Yes, there are men out there who want to have sex with minors, and not all of these guys are youth pastors or Catholic priests, but am I can't be the only person who wonders if all these guys wouldn't have acted on their desires if it weren't for all the cops being paid to sit at computers stirring pedochum into online chat rooms. Maybe these guys deserve to be trapped, and arguably any actual 14 year olds out there lurking in the "Men for Men" sections of Craiglist are safer when guys like Kalin are trapped, but at what point does setting traps become entrapment and does the money being spent actually make kids safer?