A sting operation involving “a multi-agency undercover operation” in New Jersey saw 24 child predators arrested after men who were thought to be targeting children on social media for sexual activity were taken down.
Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced the arrests as part of a sting law enforcement called “Operation Open House,” according to ABC Action News. What the men did not know was that the underage girls and boys they thought they were talking to were actually undercover police officers.
The sting saw the officers luring most of the men to a house in Toms River, N.J., where they thought they would find the children alone. Dozens of police officers were waiting to arrest them instead. Any and all evidence on the scene was also collected and processed.
“It is a frightening reality that sexual predators are lurking on social media, ready to strike if they find a child who is vulnerable,” said Attorney General Grewal.
“To counter that threat, we are working collaboratively and aggressively across all levels of law enforcement to apprehend these sex offenders. We want child predators to know that we are on social media too – and the child they target may be the undercover officer who puts them in handcuffs. That is the message of Operation Open House.”
A total of 24 men, including a firefighter, a nurse, and a police sergeant, were arrested in an undercover sting operation targeting alleged child predators. At least one was carrying condoms. https://t.co/cBxJXVoJQi— ABC13 Houston (@abc13houston) September 18, 2018
The seemingly normal lives these predators live has made the public all the more nervous since receiving the shocking news. Among the 24 men are a police sergeant, a security guard, a registered nurse, a firefighter, and a mechanic. Many of them face additional charges of attempted sexual assault of a minor, attempted debauching morals of a child, and attempted showing obscene materials to a child.
While some had planned to lure children there with the express intent of having sexual intercourse with them, others had also sent nude images of themselves to them via text message or instant messaging services.
As a result of the scare, authorities have warned parents to watch what their children are getting up to.
“Parents need to be aware of their children’s activities on the internet, and if children appear anxious or evasive when this topic is raised, it may be a red flag,” Grewal said.
“It is critical that parents talk to their children about social media and chat apps to let them know that the people they encounter may not be who they initially seem to be.”
The predators were using the popular game Fortnite to communicate with the children.