Twenty-five pedophiles have been arrested by Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office as part of an undercover operation.
The men used online apps to communicate with undercover deputies posing as children, according to a report.
The men responded to internet ads, online apps or social media sites to engage in sexually explicit written and verbal conversations.
Heraldtribune.com reports: The men traveled — one from as far as Jacksonville — with the intent of having sex with a child. They were arrested from July 17 to July 20.
“Unfortunately, the internet allows for easy and anonymous access to children by strangers who are hiding behind a computer screen,” Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight said in a news release. “That is why these operations are paramount to ensuring our most vulnerable population is safe and protected. The men arrested during this operation managed to blend into society and attempted to prey on children by developing a trust through promises to exploit them for sexual purposes. So long as men like these prey upon our community, I will ensure our ongoing commitment to putting them behind bars.”
A similar operation in 2018 resulted in the arrest of 21 men. More than 100 have been arrested in operations dating back to 2013. Depending on previous criminal records, those convicted could face up to 15 years in prison, with a five-year minimum.
Knight updated the Sheriff’s Office list of apps that parents should know about. These mobile applications frequently downloaded by children can be utilized by predators for purposes of exploitation. The apps are Bumble, Snapchat, Kik, LiveMe, Holla, Whisper, Ask.FM, Calculator%, Hot or Not, MeetMe, Grindr, SKOUT, WhatsApp, TikTok and Badoo.