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Former Escondido man jailed on child porn charges

VISTA — A former Escondido resident targeted last spring by an out-of-state “cyber vigilante” group that works to bring pedophiles to justice was jailed on Aug. 25 on suspicion of possessing child pornography.

Detectives with the Escondido Police Department arrested 45-year-old Douglas Edward Smith Jr. Friday morning at his new home in Vista, according to EPD public affairs.

Smith was booked into county jail on suspicion of possessing more than 600 images depicting children under age 12 engaging in sex acts, police said.

The case came to light in late May, when the group of amateur child sex crimes investigators contacted Escondido police to report that Smith allegedly had been involved in “an illicit sexual conversation” with an adult posing as a child, according to an EPD statement.

The vigilantes said they had traveled to Smith’s Escondido home and confronted him with their accusations before calling the police.

EPD detectives looked into the allegations but were unable to immediately secure probable cause to arrest Smith, police said.

“The group was encouraged to come to the Escondido Police Department with … evidence of their communications,” according to the department statement. “Escondido police detectives from the Family Protection and Child Exploitation Unit met with the group and obtained evidence of communication between Smith and the decoy.”

The detectives then obtained a warrant to seize electronic devices from Smith’s Escondido home and spent several weeks reviewing the files contained on them, leading to the suspect’s arrest.

Despite such outcomes, local law enforcement officials seek to discourage so-called cyber vigilantism and encourage anyone with information about such alleged crimes to directly contact police professionals, who have specialized training that allows them to strictly adhere to legal protocols, the EPD statement noted.

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