Authorities arrested 18 suspects accused of contacting a minor for sex and other related crimes in California.
The crackdown was the result of “Operation Secret Admirer,” a sting operation that identified, contacted and arrested “anyone who may be trying to target children for sex,” said the Sacramento Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
The operation took place from February to March and involved authorities posing as children as young as 13 years old when communicating with suspects.
During the conversations, officials said the suspects allegedly sent sexually explicit language and graphic photos to undercover authorities.
“Once the suspects requested to meet with a child, law enforcement directed them to a predetermined location and arrested them,” officials said.
The operation targeted individuals across Sacramento County with the majority of arrests involving those who attempted to meet with undercover personnel.
“I have a simple message for all those who target children for sex online: If you go after children in California, we’ll go after you,” said Attorney General Bonta.
The 18 arrests have been referred to the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office for a potential criminal prosecution, officials said.
“Child sexual abuse remains a significant public safety problem,” authorities said. “Many children wait to report or never report child sexual abuse and research on the subject likely underestimates the true impact of the problem. Experiencing child sexual abuse can affect how a person thinks, acts, and feels over a lifetime. This can result in short- and long-term physical, mental, and behavioral health consequences.”
If you believe a child is in immediate danger, call 911. You can also report suspected child sexual exploitation to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at report.cybertip.org.
Additional guidance for victims and survivors and information on how to access a sexual assault forensic medical exam is available through the California Department of Justice’s Victims’ Services Unit at oag.ca.gov/victimservices.