When Bruce Moats logs onto his computer at work he could be anything from a little girl to a dirty old man.
As an investigator with the Fort Bend County District Attorney’s Office and a key member of the Houston Metro Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, it’s his job to scour the Internet in search of evidence that will put pedophiles behind bars and rescue children from sex abusers.
Quite often that means he poses as a potential victim or as a consumer seeking child pornography on the dark web. He also investigates suspects’ computers and even engages in surveillance on the streets.
“I do it to protect my kiddos,” he said over lunch at a local Chick-fil-A.
A native of Fort Bend County who graduated from Austin High School in 2000, Moats, 36, is married to a teacher and they have two children, a 3-year-old son and a 3-month-old daughter. He said he grew up in a safe community and wants the same for his children and all the children out there.
“My mission is to protect this community,” he said.
It isn’t an easy job and it demands a lot of his time.
“There are so few of us and so many people out there that are seeking to exploit our children,” he said.
Moats never planned on getting into law enforcement after high school. He enrolled at Sam Houston State University but dropped out to attend the police academy at Wharton County Junior College. After graduating he took a job with the Missouri City Police Department and later transferred to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office and returned to SHSU where he earned a degree in political science with a minor in history.
After graduation he briefly took a job with the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission but found that regulatory work didn’t appeal to him. He returned to the Missouri City Police Department and was promoted to investigations. Eventually he joined the Houston Metro Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Moats thrived in that position.
In 2013, Fort Bend County District Attorney John Healey brought him on board and he has been there ever since. Moats is still a part of the Houston Metro Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and is continually taking training classes as well as teaching classes. He also speaks to local groups and schools about Internet safety for children. He is networked with law enforcement agencies throughout the Houston metro area as well as the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and other agencies related to what he does.
As he eats his lunch, his cell phone continually buzzes with texts from investigators throughout the area. Technically he has been off work for the week to take his turn looking after the baby. Pedophiles, however, do not rest and neither does Moats. Some cases can take months to develop and some happen overnight.
“Pedophiles and perpetrators don’t know jurisdictions,” he said, adding that collaboration with other agencies is key to stopping exploitation of children.
Looking up from his lunch and turning to check on his daughter, bundled asleep in a car seat on the bench next to him, Moats grew stern and serious.
“Not my kids and not my county,” he said.