Investigators alert parents about internet crimes against children

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Authorities have arrested 19 people across the state of Louisiana, including two from Baton Rouge, who are all accused of using the internet to prey on children. The arrests are part of Operation Broken Heart.

The Louisiana Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which is comprised of local, state and federal agents, announced the arrests of 19 offenders Wednesday for targeting kids online. Some of the men were charged with distributing child pornography, while others were allegedly trying to set up meetings for sex. However, investigators said that's just the tip of the iceberg.

"Basically, there are more cases to work than there are people to work them," said David Ferris, an investigator with the Attorney General Cyber Crime Unit.

Ferris added investigators continue to try to adapt to track criminals who are hiding behind keyboards and touch screens instead of coming out into the public as they once did.

"The guy sitting at the edge of the park that was watching our kids, that was the guy you had to look out for. The problem is our kids aren't in the parks anymore. Our kids are on social media, they're on Xbox. So, wherever our kids go, that's where these individuals who target our children are going to be," said Ferris.

Where they are going to be is the question Ferris says parents ask most often, but whether it's by laptop or smartphone, there are countless social media sites these predators will use to make contact with victims.

"The problem is there is no one set location or one set app I can tell you. It's not this kick, or Facebook or Twitter or Instagram that you have to be aware, it's relatively ... it's anywhere the internet touches, there's a potential for danger for our children," said Ferris.

Trooper Doug Cain with Louisiana State Police said internet crimes against children are widespread because they are easy. He added it's up to parents to attack the problem head-on, along with investigators. He expects offenders to know many of these crimes have serious consequences.

"Jail time, we're talking about sex offender registry," said Cain. "Once you get out of jail, that's going to track you forever, so community knows where you are and what you're up to, so certainly, the system seems to be working. We want parents to get involved and do the education piece with us and all of us together can hopefully affect this."

If you are viewing this story on a mobile device (smartphone or tablet), click the link to see the slideshow that contains the names of the 19 suspects arrested and pictures of 18 of them, as a picture was not provided of the last one -

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