JACKSONVILLE, Fla.- Two-hundred and fifty-five suspected child predators were arrested during a sweeping nationwide operation.
Sixty-one victims of child sexual exploitation were identified. Three of those children are from Jacksonville.
"It makes you lose sleep at night," said Toni Mullins.
Mullins is a parent who lives in Jacksonville. She said she sometimes worries about her 4 kids. Especially while two of them are online.
"I'm very nervous with it. They're older," she explained. "A severn and a 12-year-old at home. They're all into the online games and they're always chatting."
Violet Sherry, of Valdosta, Georgia said some of her children are online, too.
"We're right there watching what they're looking at," Sherry said.
Sherry said she knows what her children do when they are online.
"They just really play games. They don't do the other things like talking to friends," Sherry explained.
From May 28 to June 30 as part of the nationwide iGuardian operation, the Homeland Security Investigations in cooperation with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and other agencies, arrested one suspect in Jacksonville.
Fifty-seven other suspected child predators were arrested in Florida. Three victims of online sexual exploitation, ages 12 and under, were in Jacksonville. Authorities said they developed information that people in the area were possibly distributing child pornography.
"More and more frequently, sexual predators are actually enticing, coercing children to actually provide the predator themselves with the explicit materials over the internet," Thomas Blanchard, Assistant Special Agent in Charge with Homeland Security Investigations said.
He pointed to what he said was a "disturbing trend" in North Florida, the state and the nation.
"They take these vulnerable children and through various means, convince them that it would be an OK thing for them to send sexually explicit material," he explained.
If your child is online, Blanchard said some things should immediately raise red flags.
"You see that your child is communicating with someone online who's not a classmate," Blanchard explained. "Not on any of their sports teams."
Also, have an open conversation with your child about online practices.
In cases similar to this, JSO Director of Investigations, Mike Williams told FCN predators pretend to be children of the same age and develop online relationships. Blanchard said you can try to keep your kids from falling pray.
"There's filters that parents can use to block inappropriate websites and content," Blanchard said.
"Everything's already monitored at our house," Mullins said.
First Coast News