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More than 2,300 people arrested for child porn, sexual abuse in nationwide ‘Operation Broken Heart’

UPDATED: Wed., June 13, 2018, 10:12 p.m.

FILE - In this May 14, 2013, file photo, the Department of Justice headquarters building in Washington is photographed early in the morning. A massive, nation-wide law enforcement effort has lead to the arrest of 2,300 people suspected of sexually abusing children (J. David Ake / AP)
FILE - In this May 14, 2013, file photo, the Department of Justice headquarters building in Washington is photographed early in the morning. A massive, nation-wide law enforcement effort has lead to the arrest of 2,300 people suspected of sexually abusing children (J. David Ake / AP)

A three-month, nationwide law enforcement effort dubbed “Operation Broken Heart” led to the arrests of more than 2,300 people suspected of sexually abusing children and dealing in child pornography, authorities said Tuesday.

The operation, which ended in May, was conducted by Internet Crimes Against Children task forces. According to a U.S. Department of Justice news release, there are 61 such task forces operating in all 50 states. They are composed of more than 4,500 local, state, federal and tribal law enforcement agencies.

The Justice Department said the task forces investigated more than 25,200 complaints of “technology-facilitated crimes against children,” delivered more than 3,700 presentations on internet safety, identified 195 suspects who allegedly produced child pornography or committed child sexual abuse, and identified 383 children “who suffered recent, ongoing or historical sexual abuse or production of child pornography.”

According to an online post by the Seattle Police Department, which leads the Washington task force, a total of 236 investigations resulted in 87 arrests across the state. Twenty-five of those cases will be prosecuted in federal courts, and the rest will be prosecuted in the state’s superior courts.

Seattle police also reported that more than half of the arrested suspects had viewed or distributed child pornography using peer-to-peer or P2P file-sharing programs like BitTorrent. Such programs are used legitimately by artists and academics to move and sort large amounts of digital content, but they also have been used by predators to peddle images of children being raped and molested.

The police statement said the number of investigations and arrests is “a testament to the relentless effort of ICAC investigators to dampen predatory behavior targeting our youngest victims. It is also a stark reminder of the prevalence of child pornography and child sexual abuse.”

Similar sting operations led by the Washington State Patrol have targeted would-be child rapists across the state. In June, investigators posed as 13-year-old boys and girls on social media and websites such as Craigslist and solicited sexual encounters with adults in Spokane County. A WSP spokesman said the operation generated “hundreds of responses,” but ultimately only nine people were arrested. A similar operation in the county in 2016 resulted in 13 arrests.

Police urge anyone with information about child sexual abuse to call 911 or submit a tip to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.


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