82 Arrested in Multistate Child-Abuse Operation: Officials

May 4, 2019 Updated: May 4, 2019

A child exploitation operation that stretched across eight states including Georgia ended with 82 people being arrested in a three-day execution of the plan dubbed Operation Southern Impact III.

Some of those arrested include a mechanic, day care administrator, youth group leader, former high school band director, freelance photographer, construction worker, and a painter.

The alleged acts, coordinated by the criminals, occurred in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.

Operation Southern Impact III, a joint, proactive cooperation of 10 Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces in those eight states focused on the people who distribute and own child pornography, and those who exploit children sexually using technology, the internet, and any other means available to them.

The planning of the four-month sting—Operation Southern Impact III culminated in three days of execution that included executing search warrants, conducting “knock and talks, arrests, and sex offender compliance verification visits said the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI).

There were 171 law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies participating in the efforts according to the GBI, they targeted those looking for and distributing the most violent sexual abuse material involving infants and toddlers.

During the operation, 134 search warrants were executed and 215 knock and talks were conducted in the eight states. Agents previewed 861 digital devices and 1,613 digital devices were seized. Of those devices seized 203 were mobile phones, said the GBI.

The offenders were between 20 and 70.

Thirty-one people were arrested in Georgia, seven had traveled to engage a minor in sex.

Child Abuse

An estimated 674,000 children were determined to be victims of maltreatment in 2017, according to the Department of Health & Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families.

Of the victims, about 75 percent were neglected, 18 percent were physically abused, and 9 percent were sexually abused.

Nationwide, an estimated 1,720 children died from abuse and neglect, a decline from the 1,750 children who died from the same in the previous year.

Officials said there was an increase in the number of referrals to Child Protective Services for an investigation but that there was a decline in the number of maltreatment cases, a phenomenon they will be probing.

Of the abused children, 25 percent were younger than 1 year old. Another 52 percent were between 1 year old and 5 years old.

The children who were killed by abuse or neglect were also overwhelmingly young, with about half of the fatalities being younger than 1 year old. Boys made up 58 percent of the deaths.

Perpetrators of abuse or neglect are most often in the 25 to 34 age range. More than four-fifths (83.4 percent) of the perpetrators were between 18 and 44 years old. Perpetrators were more likely to be female.

How to Report Suspected Child Maltreatment

If you suspect a child is being abused or neglected, contact your local child protective services office or law enforcement agency so officials can investigate and assess the situation. Most states have a number to call to report abuse or neglect.

To find out where to call, consult the State Child Abuse and Neglect Reporting Numbers website.

The Childhelp organization can also provide crisis assistance and other counseling and referral services. Contact them at 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453).

“Every year more than 3.6 million referrals are made to child protection agencies involving more than 6.6 million children (a referral can include multiple children),” according to Childhelp.