17 children rescued, 82 arrested in multi-state child sex sting operation named 'Southern Impact III'
Officials in Georgia on Friday announced that 82 suspects were arrested after a four-month-long sting operation across eight states that targeted those who possessed or distributed "the most violent sexual abuse material involving infants and toddlers.”
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) on Friday revealed that the operation called Operation Southern Impact III focused on arresting individuals who possessed and distributed child pornography apart from the people who sexually exploited children using the Internet, the agency revealed in a press release.
The culmination of the operation was coordinated among task forces in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia and was conducted across three days. The arrestees ranged in age from 20 to 70. A non-profit employee, small business owner, store clerk, mechanic, daycare administrator, youth group leader, former high school band director, freelance photographer, construction worker and painter are among the 82 people arrested, including the 31 others from Georgia itself.
Among all the 31 people who were arrested in Georgia alone, seven of them traveled with the intention of having sex with a minor. According to Fox News officials said the ages of the people arrested ranged from 20 to 70. Apart from the arrests, there were 17 children who were rescued or identify as victims.
While the three-day execution of Operation Southern Impact III was in process investigators issued a total of 134 warrants, conducted 215 knock and talks and seized 1,613 digital devices, the GBI revealed. Of those devices seized 203 were mobile phones.
Officials revealed that 171 law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies were included and took park during the takedown. 'Operation Southern Impact III has given us an opportunity to share our experience, information, and resources across units, agencies, and state lines, to make sure that there is no safe place to hide for criminals who would victimize the most vulnerable among us," stated the press release.
According to WSBTV, GBI Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Commander Debbie Garner said, "We were focused on those who were collecting and viewing that content for sexual gratification. It is as horrific as you can imagine."
Those arrested in Georgia were charged with crimes pursuant to O.C.G.A. 16-12-100.2, Computer Pornography and Child Exploitation Prevention Act of 2007. Additional charges are likely and other arrests will occur after analysis of seized digital devices.