DETROIT (AP) - Twenty-seven people have been nabbed in an Internet sex sting in Wayne County.
All but one of those arrested is from Michigan. They range in age from 19 to 57.
The Michigan attorney general's office, Wayne County sheriff's office and Van Buren Township police conducted the undercover operation Friday through Sunday.
Agents posing as minors communicated on the Internet with alleged child sex predators. They then began informing them of their location, a decoy home in Wayne County. They arrested people who came to the house and others who drove by.
Authorities also plan to arrest individuals who transmitted sexually explicit material online to agents but didn't travel to the decoy location.
From the attorney general....
MORE THAN TWO DOZEN INTERNET SEX PREDATORS ARRESTED IN STING BY AG COX, WAYNE COUNTY SHERIFF EVANS, AND VAN BUREN TOWNSHIP POLICE
DETROIT -- Attorney General Mike Cox, Wayne County Sheriff Warren Evans and Van Buren Township Police Chief Gerry Champagne today announced that 27 individuals have been arrested as part of a joint proactive Internet Child Predator sting conducted March 7th, 8th and 9th in Wayne County's Van Buren Township.
All but one of the 27 defendants arrested are from Michigan, and all are male, including a physician. They range in age from 19 to 57, the average age being 30. Four individuals arrived via taxi cab, one individual was dropped off by his sister, one biked from Ypsilanti in 15-degree weather and one drove to the decoy home on a flat tire that was shredded by the time of arrival.
In Phase Two of the sting, an additional round of arrests will follow for those individuals who transmitted sexually explicit material online to agents posing as minors but did not travel to the decoy location. Phase Two is expected to arrest as many as, if not more than, the number of individuals arrested in Phase One, bringing the total number of arrests to more than fifty.
"Law enforcement has a clear choice in dealing with the danger of Internet Predators --either react after a child has been subjected to an assault or be proactive and intervene before they can harm a child. For us, this is an easy choice," Cox said. "I also want to single out the Wayne County Sheriff's Office and the Van Buren Township Police for their work and professionalism. They did an outstanding job."
"Even with the level of attention that these kinds of stings attract, the fact that so many men are still lining up to meet children for sex over the Internet should send shock waves through the home of any parent," Sheriff Evans said. "As many predators as we have caught and convicted, it only scratches the surface of what's out there. Parents must take an active role in monitoring what their kids are doing online to keep them from putting themselves at risk."
According to Van Buren Township Director of Public Safety Gerald Champagne, "This successful operation resulted in the arrest of several predators from our local area and surrounding communities. This proactive sting operation was conducted to identify predators willing to travel to our area and warn others that they will be arrested if they prey on our children for sex."
From Friday to Sunday, undercover agents who had been communicating on the Internet with child sexual predators began informing them of their location, a specially prepared decoy home in Wayne County. Predators who arrived at the decoy home, and also those who just drove by, were arrested by police officers from the partnering agencies. They will be prosecuted by the Attorney General's office.
The joint Internet Predator Sting also involved the use of a volunteer non-profit partner known as Perverted Justice to communicate with alleged predators, and a video/audio surveillance company, Investigative Mechanics. Perverted Justice has conducted more than 20 similar sting operations nationwide. All chats comport with the Michigan Rules of Evidence.
A series of steps were taken by all partner agencies to safeguard neighbors both during the operation and after. "We're going after all those who use the dark side of the Internet to target children. And let this be a message to all those who would put children in harm's way – we're watching you," Cox concluded.
A criminal charge is merely an accusation, and defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
Prior to this weekend's joint sting operation, Cox's Child and Public Protection Unit has arrested 158 Internet Sexual predators. Citizens can also report suspected Internet child predators via the Report internet Abuses Against Children link or by calling the Child and Public Protection Unit at (313) 456-0180.
The Attorney General's Office also created the Michigan Cyber Safety Initiative
(Michigan CSI), an Internet safety education program with customized presentations for kindergarten through eighth-grade students and a community seminar. More than 1,600 presentations have been given to more than 150,000 students to date. For more information or to request a presentation, call 877-765-8388. Go to www.michigan.gov/ag for tips on safe Internet usage for children.
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