Public and private agencies in Utah are calling for a stronger emphasis on early treatment of juvenile sexual abusers.
Officials say that offenders who are treated early stand a much better chance of resisting the urge to commit additional crimes."If we can even turn around one kid, then look how much misery we've saved," says Bryon Matsuda, chief probation officer for the Utah's 5th District Juvenile Court.
A national survey indicates that a juvenile sex offender will commit an average of seven acts of abuse before he's apprehended, but by the time a pedophile is arrested as an adult, he will have committed an average of 380 sexually abusive acts.
Matsuda said a majority of "sexually reactive" juvenile offenders who begin abusing other children before they reach adolescence have been sexually, physically or emotionally abused themselves.
Many begin with what are described as "nuisance" behaviors - making obscene phone calls, window peeping and indecent exposure. But eventually, the behavior becomes more than a nuisance.
"There's a natural progression from hands-off offenses to hands-on offenses," says Brent Warberg, a special agent with the FBI in Billings, Mont.