FAIRFAX, Va. (AP) — An online sting operation in Northern Virginia has resulted in the arrests of 30 men charged with trolling the internet to solicit sex from minors, authorities said Tuesday.
Fairfax County Police called the sting Operation COVID Crackdown. They said school closures and stay-at-home orders to combat the coronavirus have increased children’s online presence and their vulnerability to exploitation along with it.
Police said Tuesday the men who were arrested went online to initiate explicit conversations and solicit sex from police officers posing as children. Each of the suspects agreed to meet their targets in person at specified locations. Detectives arrested the men when they showed up.
The men ranged in age from 20 to 74, and are facing a combined 68 felonies. Most of those charged live in Northern Virginia, but some came from Maryland, West Virginia and D.C.
“Our detectives have remained vigilant and they recognized the increased threat posed by online predators in recent weeks,” said Ed O’Carroll, commander of the department’s major crimes bureau. “I commend their ability to adapt during this unprecedented public health pandemic.”