The Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office held a press conference on Friday morning to discuss an operation targeting child sex predators.
Sheriff Eric Aden discussed the results of a five-day operation that ended on Monday morning with 32 suspects.
- 12 of those suspects have been apprehended.
‘What these criminals are doing are preying on our children for sexual activity,” started Sheriff Aden. “They are sexual deviants. They’re animals. And many of them are in our community.”
According to Aden, the additional 20 suspects will be apprehended and identified in the next coming weeks.
“These electronic devices have come a long way and there are all of these kids apps that are very, very dangerous,” continued Aden. “These people are preying on these children by texting, emailing and phone calls. Sexual predators are using message applications such as Whisper and Kik and MeetMe.”
According to Aden, some of the apps are “hidden apps”, disguised to look like a calculator or photo gallery but are really messaging apps.
One suspect in this operation is a registered sex offender who currently lives in Santa Rosa county.
- He was using the MeetMe app to try and encounter a 14 year old girl.
- He wanted the girl to travel to the Santa Rosa/Okaloosa county line because he’s on probation with a GPS monitor on his leg.
Another suspect wanted to have one of the victims, a 14 year old girl, get picked up by an Uber because his wife was home and he did not want the girl to come over to the house.
Sheriff Aden went onto say that part of the operation involved law enforcement posing as children in online chat rooms.
- “We have chat rooms set up and we sit there and have open dialogue. I hate to say it but they come to us,” he said.
Each of the 32 suspects will be hit with multiple charges ranging from pornography to “travel-to-meet a juvenile” with the intent of sex.
“This is a priority for law enforcement, continued Sheriff Aden. “We’re going to continue to see stings like this and every time we have a sting operation like this, we’re going to continue to see results like this. And that’s a scary thing.”