Police in Texas have arrested 51 suspected pedophiles as part of a nationwide series of sting operations into online child sex crime. Among those arrested were public employees.
Police say the perpetrators attempted to meet up with young children for sex, while others possessed and distributed child pornography.
Officers from the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force posed as underage children online for the sting, dubbed ‘Operation Broken Heart‘.
The crimes are alleged to have occurred over the space of several months in Montgomery, Harris, and Fort Bend counties near Houston.
Dailymail.co.uk reports: Authorities have revealed some details on how the sting operation took place as well as information about some of the individual cases.
Officers said that the majority of the arrests involved adults grooming children online, or undercover officers posing as children.
‘This is not just something that is relegated to your next door neighbor or one town away,’ Houston Police Sergeant Luis Menendez-Sierra, who works closely with ICAC, said. ‘Parents need to be vigilant.’
‘A suspect traveled all the way from California here to Houston, where he met his victim and sexually assaulted her,’ Sgt. Luis Menedez-Sierra told ABC News. ‘This is not a local crime, this is not something just related to your next door neighbor, or one town away. This is a nationwide issue.’
In one case involving Christopher Lakner, 26, Constable Alan Rosen said that ‘during chats, he tried to convince undercover personnel he thought was a teenage girl to help kidnap children from area parks, breed them to make babies.’
Lakner is alleged to have told investigators that he wanted to keep girls in cages, force them into becoming pregnant and then sell the babies.
Lackner was arrested at the point where he was alleged to have arranged a meeting with what was in fact an undercover officer. He was arrested in April and is still in custody.
‘The comments that Constable Rosen made exceeded widely what is appropriate for a law enforcement officer to say publicly,’ Brian Roberts, Lackner’s attorney, told ABC News.
Operation Broken Heart’ is the code name for a nationwide operation to tackle child sex abuse.
The operation targets suspects who deal in child pornography, groom children online, engage in sex trafficking or travel to foreign countries to abuse children, according to the Department of Justice.
61 Internet Crimes Against Children task forces, located in all 50 states and comprised of more than 4,500 federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies, led the coordinated operation throughout April and May this year.
Officials said they investigated more than 18,500 complaints of crimes against children leading to 2,300 arrests across the country.
More than 2,150 presentations on internet safety were given to more than 200,000 youths and adults.
‘The sexual abuse of children is repugnant, and it victimizes the most innocent and vulnerable of all,’ Attorney General William Barr said.
‘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.
‘Over the span of just two months, our ICAC task forces investigated more than 18,000 complaints of internet-related abuse and helped arrest 1,700 alleged abusers. We are committed to bringing the defendants in these cases to justice and protecting every American child.’
Since the ICAC Program began, almost one million complaints have been investigated resulting in the arrest of 95,500 individuals.
Furthermore, more than 708,500 law enforcement officers, prosecutors and other professionals have been trained in techniques used to investigate and prosecute ICAC-related cases.