CLEVELAND — An international initiative called Operation Predator has Homeland Security Investigators laser-focused on targeting child exploitation cases.
The number of child exploitation cases is steadily increasing right here in our area, according to Homeland Security Investigators.
“It’s different than it was years ago, where the threat was people driving around the community looking to prey on children. Well, now, they do it from behind the keyboard and have access to thousands of children,” said Assistant Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations, Hector Feliciano.
The agency charged 47 accused child predators in northern Ohio in 2019 as part of Operation Predator. The number of arrests is up nearly 10% from 2018.
The 47 men were arrested for crimes ranging from possession, production and distribution of online child pornography to child enticement, child exploitation and extortion.
Nationally this year, HIS initiated 4,224 child exploitation cases that resulted in 3,771 criminal arrests and identified or rescued 1,066 victims. That is an increase of 18% over fiscal year 2018.
The numbers are trending up and predators are getting more sophisticated, targeting children through both apps and gaming devices. That’s why agents are laser-focused on targeting predators as part of Operation Predator.
“We’re out there looking, we’re looking to find these people before they do harm to children,” explained Feliciano.
He encouraged parents to talk to your children, know what they are doing on line, and what apps they are using.
To report suspected child predators, call 1-866-DHS-2-ICE.