Florida officials recently announced that a growing number of children in the state are being targeted by predators who use social media to initiate contact with their victims. In response, the Polk County sheriff’s office recently ran an undercover sting targeting these predators. After two weeks, the sting resulted in the arrest of 30 suspected child predators.
How the sting operated
Sheriff’s detectives logged into various social media sites that were popular with children. The suspects went straight to their prey, using flattery, attention and friendship as bait. Many popular games provide an easy method of making initial contact with a vulnerable child. One of the investigators observed that they are always surprised by the ease of contacting children on social media.
Profiles of the suspects
An overwhelming number of suspects arrested in the Polk County sting operation were already known to police because of prior convictions for similar offenses. According to the FBI, only about 10 to 40% of sex crimes are reported to authorities. This statistic is estimated to mean that millions of sexual predators are living freely in their communities.
A striking example of this phenomenon was provided by a Colorado man who worked for the Colorado State Penitentiary in Cañon City. The man became a suspect when detectives found that he had been sending lewd materials to a 14-year-old girl. The detectives checked into his background and found that he had a criminal history that included assault and intimidations with arrests in 2005, 2009, 2019 and 2021.
Police officers said that the persons arrested in the February sting worked in a variety of jobs, some of which gave them direct access to children.
Getting sound legal advice
The persons arrested in this sting are facing severe penalties if they are convicted of the charges against them. Anyone facing similar charges may benefit from a consultation with an experienced criminal defense attorney. A knowledgeable lawyer can provide a useful evaluation of the evidence, suggest potential defense arguments and, where appropriate, assist in negotiating an acceptable plea agreement.