In an investigation that highlights some of the dangers children face online, California arrested more than 275 alleged child sex predators following a monthlong investigation.
Police officials said the results of the investigation should be a wake up call to parents everywhere about the threats the Internet can pose to young children.
"Allowing your child to go on the Internet or social media unsupervised is like letting them walk down a dark alley in the middle of the night in a bad part of town," NBC Los Angeles quoted Claude Arnold, a special agent at the Department of Homeland Security.
The Washington Post reported that "Operation Broken Heart" involved dozens of local, state and federal policing agencies. The investigation focused on sex offenders, child sex traffickers, pimps, child porn traders and sex tourists who were traveling abroad.
“Parents are naive,” the Los Angeles Times quoted Lt. Andrea Grossman of the LAPD’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. “Unfortunately kids know technology better than we do and know where to hide. Fortunately, our team knows where to hide, too.”
Grossman noted that in 2008 the task force had 500 cyber tips and that had increased to more than 3,700 cyber tips last year.
NBC Los Angeles reported that members of the Los Angeles Regional Internet Crimes Against Children task force pretended to be 12 to 14-year-old children. In some instances meetings were arranged and when people showed up to have sex with the children they thought they were talking to online, they were arrested.
The Washington Post reported that among those arrested were:
- A teacher's assistant accused of going to meet two children for sex.
- A retired Los Angeles County Sheriff deputy accused of distributing child porn.
- A U.S. Army soldier on leave who communicated with undercover officers posing as young girls and then showed up for sex.
- A former substitute teacher who allegedly posted an ad seeking sex with a father and a son.
“We can’t arrest our way out of the problem,” The Times quote Arnold. “Parents and children need to have frank conversations about how to stay safe in cyberspace.”