Australia's Perth Police are advancing the fight against child sexual exploitation with the disbanding of a pedophile ring that was grooming teens on social media. On Aug. 29, they announced the arrest of 11 men connected to the operation, charging a further seven suspects with a string of related offenses.
Those suspected of running the pedophile ring were aged between 18 and 41. They reached their targets using social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram and their aim, explained Acting Detective Senior Sergeant Matt Daly of the Western Australia Police Force, was to "ultimately engage in sexual contact with them."
The majority of offenses were "nonphysical communication," he clarified, "and via mobile phones."
The predatory operation involved collaboration among its ringleaders; WA Police explained that a number of suspects would "compare information" about their victims and share their targets with one another. At least four of the accused are believed to have previous convictions for child sex offenses.
"They come in from 'likes' and friends from other people, and they get accepted and then they start grooming," said state crime assistant commissioner Brad Royce, adding that Operation Timing Belt demonstrates just how vigilant teens and their parents need to be.
"You wouldn't let a stranger into your home if they randomly knocked on the front door," Royce continued; "likewise, you shouldn't allow someone to access your online profile unless you know them."
The allegations against the 18 perpetrators of the pedophile ring were made in conjunction with seized computer equipment obtained during police raids. Daly cited mobile phones and social media as two of the biggest modern-day tools for sexual predators, each providing them with "new ways to reach out to youths" in order to commit heinous crimes.
"These are adult men, for the most part, that aren’t much older [than the teens]," Royce lamented, speaking of the 18 suspects. "But they’re old enough to know better."
Despite the successful sting, Operation Timing Belt is by no means complete.
The dissolution of a large pedophile ring in the capital city of Western Australia is a huge boon for the cause, but sexual predators remain at large. WA Police are keeping the operation afloat, channeling their expertise into saving more vulnerable minors from becoming victims of sexual abuse.
News of the disbanding of the ring comes just days after a large-scale suspected sex-trafficking operation was busted in the U.S. state of Georgia. Thirty-nine missing children were recovered after a two-week mission by the U.S. Marshals; nine adult suspects are behind bars, facing sex offender violations.
Operation Not Forgotten, spanning 20 counties around Atlanta, rescued 26 missing children and located 13 more, some of whom were suffering from medical and mental health conditions.
"The message to missing children and their families is that we will never stop looking for you," he said.