Florida Sheriffs Task Force Announces Five-County Operation the Most Successful Cyber Predator Initiative to Date with a total of 119 predators arrested in five-county initiative.
July 3, 2012 (TALLAHASSEE) – The Florida Sheriffs Task Force, focusing on cyber sexual predators in coordination with the North, Central and South Florida Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Forces, has concluded a six-week series of collaborative stings to identify and arrest child predators in Bay, Broward, Citrus, Polk and Sarasota counties. This statewide initiative netted the highest number of predators in Florida to date, with the arrests of 119 male predators who engaged in a sex offense with a minor:
• Operation Riptide (Bay County) netted 12 arrests
• Operation Southern Sentinel (Broward County) netted 28 arrests (primarily child pornography and prostitution-related crimes, rather than traveling to meet minors for sex)
• Operation Summer Knights (Citrus County) netted 9 arrests (operation was cut short due to Tropical Storm Debby)
• Operation Cyber Child (Polk County) netted 38 arrests
• Operation Intercept (Sarasota County) netted 32 arrests
The stings resulted in the arrest of an elementary school teacher, a healthcare professional and a registered sex offender, among others. Most predators brought condoms, and other items ranging from Barbie dolls to gallons of milk.
Sheriff Ben Johnson of Volusia County, President of the Florida Sheriffs Association, said the collaborative effort helps make Florida safer for the state’s youth.
“As evidenced by its recent successes across the state to target online sexual predators, this approach uses best practices and collaboration in an effort to keep Florida’s children safe,” Johnson said. “The Florida Sheriffs Task Force, in collaboration with our other Florida partners, continues our targeted efforts to address areas of concern across the state.”
During the operations, undercover detectives posted fictitious ads or profiles on various websites such as Craigslist, posing as children or as the caretakers and guardians of children. Detectives also posed as children in online chat rooms. Numerous men responded to the ads and then proceeded to chat online, email, text, and talk on the phone with the undercover detectives posing as children online. The suspects solicited for sex acts, sent