"When you are dealing with someone who assaults a child that is not within the family, you are dealing with a special breed of predatory offender," Houston crime victim advocate Andy Kahan told AOL News. "They are secretive, devious, calculating and diabolical. Unfortunately, there are a lot of these sick and depraved people out there, and there is no easy way to identify them."
To describe the mind of a predatory sex offender, Kahan cited a journal that authorities found inside a convicted sex offender's jail cell.
"The convict wrote a how-to book on how to find child victims from 8 to 12 in different scenarios, such as grocery stores, laundromats, funeral parlors, etc.," Kahan said.
Kahan wouldn't comment on the offender's name or the facility in which the journal was confiscated, but he said the entries within it are "diabolically chilling and brilliant," due to the comprehensive scenarios.
One of the tactics outlined in the manual details how to find a victim at a funeral home.
"Check newspaper under death and look for large families with young children," the journal entry reads. "Also, look for those being laid out during the week (gives me time to call family). I'll look for their phone number or call information. Also try the funeral home for phone number of family. When family member answers ... say you purchased furniture or appliances and was told to call [to find out] when to deliver. Ask when to deliver/pick up and so forth. Visit funeral home a couple hours before it opens. Stand outside the building near the entrance. Talk to the family with young girls of interest. Speak to the child."
Kahan declined to continue detailing the entry, citing his desire to prevent too much information from getting into the wrong hands.
"You and I can't think like that," Kahan said. "It is incredible to look into their mind and see how they go about getting prepared."
A similar entry in the journal details abducting a child from a grocery store:
"Go to the grocery store. If girl enters store alone, approach saying that your mother said [to] pick up a box of tea bags. Ask if [they] have enough money. Say, 'How much do you need [to] get the tea bags?' Help with the shopping. Walk to the cart and so forth."
The entry then offers instruction on how to incapacitate the victim and includes examples of what to say: "If you don't do as I say, my friend will kill your mother."
Westley Allan Dodd, a convicted serial killer, child molester and pedophile, also kept a journal, in which he detailed plans for his victims.
"Just had a brilliant thought -- I must purchase an audiocassette recorder. That way I'll later be able to log exact words and reaction descriptions during a rape, molest, operation, murder, etc.," a diary entry reads. "That will do until I can afford the more expensive camcorder with sound. Kidnap victims will not be told anything until I can do it on tape."
Dodd was arrested in November 1989 for trying to abduct a young boy from a movie theater in Washington state. When police searched his home, they found a torture rack and other evidence, including photos of his victims. Dodd was ultimately arrested and convicted for the murders of three children, ages 4, 10 and 11.
True crime writer Gary C. King wrote about Dodd's life and exploits in the book "Driven to Kill." King spoke extensively with Dodd and was given exclusive permission to use and reprint the diary.
"Like many such pedophiles, Dodd was a meticulous planner," King told AOL News. "He told me that he spent many an evening at home alone, after getting off work from his job, planning his future outings, his 'hunt' for victims, studying area maps and marking the locations where he wanted to focus his attention. He especially liked to stake out parks and school playgrounds."
From Dodd's journal: "While most of my future victims will die (in various ways), I also hope to have some long relationships with children as well. I'd like to make some child porno movies. I also hope to get 'before and after' photos of my 'sex-murder' victims as well."
King says Dodd spent a lot of time fantasizing and admitted he liked to masturbate while recalling his prior molestations. "I believe that is one of the reasons he kept such meticulous notes of his crimes. Fantasy was very important to him," King said.
Dodd was executed by hanging on Jan. 5, 1993. In addition to the murders he was convicted of, Dodd is believed to have molested more than 50 children.
According to David Finkelhor, director of the Crimes Against Children Research Center at the University of New Hampshire, 10 to 20 percent of all sex offender cases involve predator cases.
Finkelhor said that incidents of child sexual abuse are on the decline. "There's been a pretty big decline, in terms of cases being substantiated by child protective authorities," Finkelhor told AOL News. "It's down about 62 percent since 1993."
Finkelhor said that "greater awareness" and "prevention" are responsible for the decline. "Getting caught is also a pretty big deterrent," he added.
Despite the decline in cases, the number of victims remains high. Darkness to Light, a nonprofit organization that offers programs to raise awareness of sexual abuse, has collected statistics that show one in four girls and one in six boys are sexually abused before the age of 18. Additional statistics show that an average serial child molester may have as many as 400 victims in his or her lifetime.
Kahan said that is 400 victims too many.
"The numbers are unacceptable," he said, adding that statistics, especially those dealing with repeat offenders, are not entirely reliable.
"Recidivism can be defined in too many different ways," Kahan said. "For example, we have people who are on parole/probation that are not considered recidivists because they didn't go back to prison, but they got a new conviction. So they are easily manipulated statistics."
We are in the middle of a "national public safety health crisis" that needs to be dealt with not only through education and preventative measures but also through the criminal justice system, he said.
"We need to recognize this problem for what it is and start handing down lengthy sentences to these offenders, particularly those that target children," Kahan said.