For Immediate Release
September 12, 2011, TALLAHASSEE – Today, in conjunction with Florida Missing Children’s Day, Florida’s Sheriffs are declaring war on the online predator epidemic by sharing its Cyber Sexual Predator Initiative with any Florida law enforcement organizations that would like to implement this program in their communities. As evidenced by its recent successes across the state to target online sexual predators this approach uses best practices, collaboration, and education in an effort to keep Florida’s children safe. In the past 11 months, 177 persons have been arrested from sting operations conducted across several Florida counties.
Florida Sheriffs are dedicated to keeping our children safe from the dangers that are lurking online with this collaborative effort which shares resources to combat the epidemic of online sexual exploitation of our children. Combined resources from Sheriffs’ offices, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Florida Attorney General, the Florida Police Chiefs Association, Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) taskforce, and many Florida school superintendents have provided support and education for this initiative.
To date, the FSA Cyber Sexual Predator Initiative, through the Sheriffs’ Offices school resource officers and Attorney General’s Cyber Crime Unit team, have educated more than 214,000 children about staying safe on the streets and on the Internet. One such example, a cybersafety program started by the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office launched in October 2010, has already worked with 104,516 students in elementary, middle and high schools across 25 counties in Florida. FSA leaders say that educating our children is critical to helping them combat the sexual predators who are attempting to lure kids through Internet chat rooms.
Leading the FSA Cyber Sexual Predator Initiative is Citrus County Sheriff Jeff Dawsy, who launched the first operation in October 2010. “Operation Grim Reaper” netted 22 arrests after 700 hours of logged chat time online.
“This is the crime you never see, this is the crime you never hear of,” said Sheriff Dawsy, “and we are declaring war on this epidemic. The Florida Sheriffs Association Cyber Sexual Predator Initiative is going on the road--and it will be coming to a town near you."
FSA Cyber Sexual Predator Initiative successes include the following operations:
• Citrus County, 22 arrested in Operation Grim Reaper
• Citrus County, an additional 18 arrested in Operation Cyber Guardian
• Lake County, 32 arrested in Operation Summer Nights
• Polk County, 22 arrested in Operation Last House Call
• St. Johns County, 17 arrested in Operation Sheepdog
• Sumter County, 22 arrested in Operation STARCOP
• Volusia County, 15 arrested and 14 leads are still under investigation in Operation Cyber Sting.
Sheriff Ben Johnson of Volusia County, President of the Florida Sheriffs Association, is pleased to offer this cyber sexual predator toolkit to other agencies. Johnson explained, “We are sharing the FSA Cyber Sexual Predator Initiative to provide real resources to other agencies, including step-by-step instructions on developing chat room personnel, conducting undercover operations, drafting search warrants, and selecting the location that will aid in the successful prosecution of those preying on our youths.”
Sheriff Dawsy and Sheriff Judd (Polk County), as well as the other Sheriffs and their staff who took part in this initiative, are available to assist in sharing this template with other law enforcement agencies to implement in their own areas.
For tips on how to keep our kids safe see the Florida Sheriffs Association Child Safety Page at http://www.flsheriffs.org/child-safety.
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