A Texas sex sting has caught 25 men who thought they were meeting teenagers for an illegal rendezvous, but instead met uniformed police officers, The Washington Post is reporting. One of the men allegedly brought a toddler with him.
Police in Harris County, Texas, used social media and online chat rooms and, pretending to be underage children, lured the men to various locations to meet up for sex. Some of the undercover officers pretended to be children as young as 11. When they showed up at the location, they were arrested on the spot for online solicitation of a minor, a second-degree felony.
— CW39Houston (@CW39Houston) September 16, 2016
If showing up to a location thinking they’re going to have sex with a teenager — or even an adolescent — wasn’t bad enough, some of the men allegedly showed up bringing some unexpected things with them to their busts. One man, pretending to be a deputy from another county (but who was actually a private security guard), allegedly brought condoms and alcoholic beverages. But the one that takes the cake, in the mind of Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman, is the guy who allegedly brought a toddler with him.
“[It is] one of the dumbest things I have ever heard. But clearly these people do not care about anyone except themselves. I mean, the height of selfishness, I mean, he brought this 2-year-old child literally on his hip.”
According to KTRK (Houston), investigators with an Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force identified individuals who had allegedly been targeting children and teenagers for sex on social media. Over the course of three days, investigators pretended to be kids between the ages of 11 and 15, talking with the men and gathering enough evidence to be able to arrest them when they showed up. Some of the men allegedly sent photos of their genitalia to the “kids.”
Attorney General Paxton, speaking to KHOU (Houston), praised the officers for taking the alleged child predators off the street.
“This effort demonstrates the strength and effectiveness of law enforcement when it works together to crack down on child predators. I commend everyone involved in the operation who helped identify and capture the predators before they could victimize children in Texas or elsewhere.”
This is the second major sex sting to make the national news in two weeks. Just last week, according to a Washington Post report from the time, an undercover sex sting in Pensacola, Florida, nabbed 22 alleged sexual predators caught in a similar sting. One of the men, 52-year-old David Donald Hoppenjan, was a Methodist pastor who had volunteered in schools.
Like the Texas sting, the men who showed up for the Florida sex sting brought some things with them. One brought a friend of the same age. Another brought methamphetamine and a glass pipe for smoking. Another showed up with various sex toys and “sadomasochistic equipment.”
The advent of social media, as well as several apps designed to allow teenagers to interact with each other anonymously, has given sexual predators even more opportunity to target children, says Polk County Florida Sheriff Grady Judd.
“They used to have to hang out in parks and coach Little League or teach Sunday school in the past. Now they can download an app and look for kids that are in need of attention — boys and girls. When a 60-year-old man wants to have sex with a 10-year-old child, those are the most dangerous of the dangerous.”
Back in Texas, Attorney General Paxton urges parents to talk to their children about online safety, especially when it comes to using social media apps.
[Feature Image by bikeriderinlondon/Shutterstock]