John G. Fasick says he was concerned about stemming the tide of child abuse long before the subject was one of mass public concern. Recently, that determined interest won Fasick, a Prince George's County police detective, an honorable mention in the annual Police Service Awards survey made by by the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) and Parade Magazine.

The 36-year-old Beltsville station detective received the award for his involvement in a six-month investigation into sexual abuse of young boys in the Laurel area.

Ultimately, as a result of that investigation, Raymond Latham, 69 -- a civil engineer who was first convicted for sexual offenses with minors in 1953 -- was convicted last year of sexual child abuse involving several boys in Montgomery and Prince George's.

Sentenced in 1979 for similar charges in Prince George's, he had served time in prison and was out on parole when Fasick's investigation began. For the latest charges, he was sentenced to a total of 31 years.

During an interview last week, Fasick seemed slightly embarrassed to talk about the police association award. "Just being nominated was nice," he said, adding that he was shocked when Chief Michael J. Flaherty told him he would be one of 11 officers across the nation to be honored at the IACP conference in Salt Lake City.

Capt. Ralph Kalmus, commander of the Beltsville station, said Fasick was nomination for the award after the Latham investigation won recognition locally from the Silver Spring chapter of the American Legion and led to Fasick being named law officer of the year by the legion for the state of Maryland.

Kalmus said that he believed the work Fasick did on the case was unusual. "The detail work and the contacts he made were out of the ordinary . . . . If he hand't done what he did, that guy might still be out on the street."

The investigation was "textbook case" of how several governmental agencies can work to make pieces of a puzzle come together, Fasick said. He added that credit should also go to "all those other people" involved in the case, including Montgomery County police detective Rick Cage, who conducted a joint investigation with him between February and July 1983.

Fasick's work began with a phonecall from Vivian Willner, a Prince George's social services worker who was concerned about two boys who were in a car accident in Baltimore. Fasick found that the boys had been playing in the car while waiting for Latham, who was attending a clinic at Johns Hopkins Hospital for sex offenders.

Fasick then learned that Latham had been convicted in several states for sex offenses against minors. The detective began watching Latham's apartment and, in cooperation with postal inspectors, began checking his mail. Latham said in a newspaper interview while awaiting trial that he was a member of the North American Man/Boy Love Association, which advocates having sexual relations with children.

"I was obsessed with this case," Fasick said. He asked fellow officers to help out with his regular assignments -- investigating robberies and missing persons and other complaints -- to give him more time to watch Latham's apartment in Laurel.

When Latham moved to Silver Spring, Cage began keeping record of the engineer's activities after Fasick alerted him that he had moved. Fasick and Cage then began working together on the case, which Chief Flaherty said took up about "100 hours of uncompensated off-duty hours" for the Prince George's detective, in addition to his regular work.

The two officers began interviewing some of the boys who had visited Latham. "The problem was, he had those children carefully selected . . . and trained," Fasick said. He said Latham usually chose boys from broken homes and lavished them with gifts and little outings. They were reluctant to tattle, Fasick said.

A few weeks before Fasick first heard about Latham, the detective and his son John, now 16, were watching a "Nightline" segment about men who advocated sex with children. "I cringed; I couldn't believe it!" Fasick said.

His first big case as a Prince George's officer had been that of a Laurel boy who was sodomized by a man named Arthur Goode, who later murdered a Falls Church boy and was recently executed in Florida for a another murder conviction.

The notion that there should be open advocacy of sex with children appalled him, he said, adding that he believes that "child abuse is a crime second only to murder."

Recently Fasick -- who grew up in in Southeast Washington and Mount Rainier and was a Laurel police officer until he joined the county in 1976 -- has been working on other kinds of cases, including several missing persons, and he says he likes the variety of general assignment.

And when he's not doing that or working part time in a security job at a liquor store, Fasick said he is likely to be at his cabin in Pennsylvania or fishing. Better yet, he'll be watching the Redskins, he said last week, as he proudly waved a fistful of tickets to the Atlanta Falcons game.

He and his wife Carol live in Bowie with their son and daughter Angela, 11.