An operation by Law enforcement officers across the United States lead to the arrest of almost 1,700 pedophiles in April and May, the Department of Justice announced this week.
Specialized Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task forces in all 50 states identified 357 child victims who had been either sexually abused or exploited for the production of child pornography.
An operation executed in 2018 lead to the arrests of 2,300 child sex predators.
“The sexual abuse of children is repugnant, and it victimizes the most innocent and vulnerable of all,” Attorney General William Barr said in a statement. “We must bring the full force of the law against sexual predators, and with the help of our Internet Crimes Against Children program, we will.”
Since its launch in 1998, the ICAC Task Force Program has arrested more than 95,500 child sex predators and reviewed over 922,000 complaints.
As we reported on before, Operation Broken Heart targets child pornography producers, predators who convince children into sex acts online, child sex traffickers, and pedophiles who travel across state lines and to other countries to sexually abuse children.
In 2019, ICAC has reviewed more than 18,500 complaints. The program also provides internet safety courses to children across the country. These training sessions have reached more than 200,000 children in April and May.
According to the ICAC in New York, one in seven children who use the internet receives unwanted sexual solicitations. Online predators often pretend to be children to trick child victims into trusting them. Pedophiles exploit the trust to get the children to produce sexually explicit material. The children who fall prey to the scheme are then often extorted with the threat that their photographs would be sent to their family and friends.
“As society becomes more advanced, so do the predators,” said Principal Associate Deputy Attorney General Edward O’Callaghan, during a June 11conference in Atlanta.
“No longer do they merely lurk around the playground or the schoolyard. Instead, these deviants use advanced technologies to facilitate their crimes, targeting children in online chat rooms and videogame lobbies,” O’Callaghan said.
“In fact, just last month, a California man was sentenced to 14 years in prison for sexually exploiting a minor he met while playing ‘Clash of Clans,’ an online video game that any child can easily access through a mobile device or tablet,” he added.
Child sex predators use sophisticated technology to encrypt their communications and conceal their location. Hundreds of thousands of predators use the anonymous Tor browser to visit websites on the darknet dedicated to child sexual exploitation.
A law enforcement review last fall of nine Tor sites hosting child sex abuse discussions, videos, and images tracked 1.9 million members. Some sites were gaining thousands of new users every day. One child sex abuse site has 432,235 registered members, according to WePROTECT Global Alliance.
Online child sex abuse and the production of child pornography are rising faster than ever before. Reports of online child sexual abuse and exploitation tracked by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children grew tenfold from 2013 to 2017. The number of identified child victims grew fivefold between 2010 and 2017, to 15,000 from roughly 3,000 sexually abused children.
The problem is Law enforcement is struggling to keep up. The number of child exploitation cases went up by 160 percent between 2008 and 2018, according to Callaghan. Federal prosecutors filed over 2,500 child exploitation cases in the fiscal year 2018, but only capturing just a fraction of the predators.
Attorney General Willian Barr has told the Justice Department to pursue maximum sentences in child sex exploitation cases, according to O’Callaghan.
“For example, last month a Nebraska man was sentenced to 35 years in prison, followed by a lifetime term of supervised release for filming himself engaged in forcible, sexual acts with a non-communicative minor,” O’Callaghan said. “He represents just one of the many vile criminals that the Department will work hard to remove from society for as long as legally possible.”
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