PENSACOLA, FLORIDA (BNO NEWS) — More than two dozen men have been arrested in northwest Florida during a week-long operation targeting sexual predators who traveled to a local home in order to have sex with a child, police said on Wednesday. It is the second such operation in Florida this month.
Operation Blue Shepherd began on June 20 at a house in the northeastern part of Pensacola, a city in Escambia County, when officers from local, state, and federal agencies began using social networking and e-commerce sites to respond to advertisements of a sexual nature and to place similar advertisements.
According to Pensacola Police Captain Paul Kelly, the suspects described in graphic detail about the various sexual acts they were planning to perform on the male and female children who they believed were between the ages of 12 to 14. All of the suspects, except one who took a taxi, drove to the undercover house with the intent to perform these sexual acts with the children.
A total of 25 men – ages between 18 and 56 – were arrested during the week-long operation when they arrived at the home. They were questioned by police and subsequently charged with a number of felonies such as using a computer to solicit parental or guardian consent to have sex with a child or use a computer to seduce, solicit, or lure a child
Kelly said officers were surprised to find so many eager participants from the immediate Pensacola area. “We expected to have more violators traveling from outside the area. What this tells me is that these violators do not have to travel far to find their victims. They are much closer to home than we imagined. Most of them were not reluctant or frightened to approach the door of a stranger’s house. They literally pulled up to the house and walked quickly to the door eager to meet the child,” Kelly said.
The large child sex sting follows a similar operation in central Florida earlier this month, in which a total of 32 men were arrested. Both operations were similar to that of NBC’s ‘To Catch a Predator’, a popular but highly controversial television series in which potential sex predators were lured to a home under the pretense of having sex with a child. The operations in Florida were conducted by law enforcement alone.
In the operation in Lake County earlier this month, one of the men arrested was armed with a handgun which was concealed in his pants. Another suspect drove from Georgia with his two children – ages 8 and 6 – still in the car. “These suspects came to that house with the intention of having sex with a child. Instead they went to jail,” said Sheriff Gary Borders last week.
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