July 19, 2024 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Operation Online Guardian: LA ICAC Task Force Apprehends Predators in Online Crackdown

Task Force’s Multi-Agency Effort Makes Progress In Combatting Internet Crimes

By Dolores Quintana

The Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force Program, developed by the United States Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, has been instrumental in combating Internet-related crimes against youth. With 61 coordinated task forces and over 5,400 federal, state, and local law enforcement members, the ICAC Task Force Program stands united in protecting young individuals from online exploitation.

One such task force, the Los Angeles Regional ICAC Task Force (LA ICAC), led by the Los Angeles Police Department, covers five Southern California counties, including Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara, and Ventura. Comprising 102 affiliate agencies, the LA ICAC Task Force is pivotal in addressing Internet-related crimes in the region.

As the lead agency, the LAPD ICAC unit is the primary clearing house for all CyberTips related to the five Southern California counties. These CyberTips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) encompass reports from Internet Service Providers and citizens regarding incidents involving child sexual abuse, material possession, distribution, manufacturing, and online exploitation of children.

To combat online predators and protect children from sexual abuse, the LA ICAC Task Force orchestrated Operation Online Guardian from July 10, 2023, to July 21, 2023. This multi-agency operation had a dual focus: identifying and apprehending predators using the Internet to exploit children and rescuing victims from their clutches.

As a result of the collaborative efforts employed by the LA ICAC Task Force, specially trained digital forensic dogs, the Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services, and the Los Angeles Police Department’s Gang and Narcotics Division, there were 139 arrests of suspects who are alleged to have committed predatory crimes against children. 

Operation Online Guardian unfolded in two phases. The first phase involved proactive undercover investigations across various social media platforms aimed at unmasking predators lurking online. The second phase included the execution of multiple residential search warrants and arrest warrants throughout the five counties, specifically targeting child predators.

During the operation, the investigators embarked on a critical mission to safeguard the innocent. Their relentless efforts resulted in rescuing vulnerable children from further abuse. Numerous suspects, seeking to prey on our youth through social media and chat applications, were apprehended and brought to justice, facing the consequences of their despicable actions.

Although Operation Online Guardian has concluded, the LA ICAC Task Force will continue its vigilance and its mission to protect our children. Despite the numerous resources that assist the LA ICAC Task Force in the battle against the sexual exploitation of children, there are victims who are unnoticed. Therefore, we are asking the community for their help in this fight.

The internet has become an integral part of our lives, and parents/caregivers should be aware of the potential dangers that exist on the internet. Parents and caregivers can help protect their children by educating themselves and their children on the dangers of the internet, monitoring their children’s internet usage, and having an open dialogue with their children to navigate around child predators.

The community is encouraged to visit: www.Missingkids.org/NetSmartz for educational internet safety tips and activities. The community may also report potential child sexual abuse activity and have the harmful matter removed via the service “Take it Down” hosted on the website www.takeitdown.ncmec.org. By reporting the potential child sexual abuse activity, you are giving potential victims a voice when they are often silenced due to circumstances. “If you See Something, Say Something.”

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