Decatur, GA – A total of 82 people were arrested, and 17 children were rescued or identified as victims during a mutually coordinated operation between eight (8) southeastern states. The joint, proactive operation, Operation Southern Impact III, was coordinated by ten (10) Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces in those eight states and focused on persons who possess and distribute child pornography and those who are sexually exploiting children in other ways using technology and the internet. The planning for Operation Southern Impact III began approximately 4 months ago and culminated in 3 days of investigative actions to include search warrant executions, undercover operations, arrests and sex offender compliance verification visits in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. A total of 171 law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies participated in the operation.
The arrestees ranged in age from 20 to 70. Some of their occupations included 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. During the operation, 134 search warrants were executed and 215 knock and talks were conducted in those eight (8) states. During those search warrants and knock and talks, 861 digital devices were previewed and 1,613 digital devices were seized. Of those devices seized 203 were mobile phones.
These investigative actions resulted from both reactive cases such as cybertips received by each ICAC Task Force from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), and proactive cases such as peer-to-peer investigations and proactive, on-line undercover investigations. Daily each task force receives numerous cybertips from NCMEC related to online child exploitation. During Operation Southern Impact III, the investigations related to 248 cybertips were progressed through the execution of these search warrants and knock and talks, and through the seizure of digital devices which will be forensically processed in the coming weeks. There were 22 internet safety presentations or related events held during the operation as well.