139 people were arrested in a sweeping multi-agency crackdown on child sex abuse and child pornography this month, the Los Angeles Police Department announced Wednesday.
The crackdown, dubbed Operation Online Guardian, involved over 100 agencies that comprise LAPD’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force.
“Child exploitation is one of the most horrendous crimes affecting our most vulnerable members of the community,” Joe McNally, Assistant U.S. Attorney General, said at a news conference Wednesday morning. “Through these crimes, predators target those who can’t protect themselves.”
The operation unfolded in two phases.
In the first, officers went undercover on social media to identify individuals who were trafficking child porn, LAPD said. The second phase involved executing search warrants in five Southern California counties.
“Vulnerable children were rescued from further abuse, and victims who had been silenced by the atrocious crimes of child sexual abuse found their voices restored,” LAPD said in a statement.
Police did not reveal how many children were rescued and did not release the names of any suspects.
Charges include sodomy of a child, sexual abuse of a child, lewd acts, possession of child pornography and failure to register as a sex offender.
Law enforcement has acknowledged that resources are stretched thin when it comes to investigating the shocking number of crimes involving internet child predators.
This void has led to the emergence of underground groups, including Southern California’s CC Unit, which arrange sting operations and provide evidence to police.
LAPD is asking the community to fight child sex abuse by monitoring their child’s online activity. It also encouraged parents to visit missingkids.org/NetSmartz for internet safety tips and resources.
“Although Operation Online Guardian has concluded, the LA ICAC Task Force will remain vigilant and continue their mission to protect our children. Despite the numerous resources that assist the LA ICAC Task Force in the battle against the sexual exploitation of children, there are victims who are unnoticed,” LAPD said.