DECATUR, Ga. --- 18 men from Georgia and North Florida are facing charges related to a sting targeting online child predators, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation released Monday.
The operation took months of planning, but the 18 arrests were made during a period starting on Thursday, May 12. The suspects, who ranged in age from 19-58, traveled from areas around Brunswick and from North Florida to meet children for sex, according to police.
“"Our goal is to arrest people who do this, who are out to harm children." Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Debbie Garner said at a news conference.
The suspects were charged with computer or electronic pornography and Child Exploitation Prevention Act of 2007. Additional charges may be forthcoming, according to the GBI.
Five of the suspects are Jacksonville residents.
"Operation Riptide" was a collaborative effort coordinated by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation's Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit (CEACC), the Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force and the Glynn County Police Department.
The purpose of the operation was to arrest those who communicate with children online and then traveled to meet them for sexual activity or exploit them by purchasing sex with a minor.
"The children in our community need people to keep them safe," said Glynn County Police Chief Matt Doering. "We will be their guardian angels. We will look out for them.”
Garner says this operation should also serve as a warning to parents to monitor their kids online activities. "Know how to monitor (your kids) Snapchat account, Instagram account, Facebook account."
The US Secret Service arrested eight of the suspects. All of those polygraphed admitted to the crime they were arrested for, according to police. Some admitted to viewing porn and having previous sexual contact with children, the release said.