A two-day operation by local, state and federal law enforcement agencies last week to locate suspected internet child sex predators led to the arrests of seven people who the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office said were “attempting to have sex with children, or engage in prostitution.”
The investigation was conducted by the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office, Grand Junction Police Department, Palisade Police Department, 21st Judicial District Attorney’s Office, Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations and the FBI.
“This operation sends a clear message to anyone who thinks they can exploit our children in our community — we will catch you, you will go to jail, and you will be prosecuted,” Mesa County Sheriff Todd Rowell said in a news release. “The Mesa County Sheriff’s Office and our law enforcement partners are committed to working together to find people who would harm our children.”
This large-scale multi-jurisdictional undercover operation was carried out by “highly trained investigators” who posted ads for sex with children on a number of different websites and social media platforms, sheriff’s officials said.
The seven men who were arrested range in age from 25 to 62 and live in Grand Junction; Clifton, Colorado; Roswell, New Mexico; and Rossville, Georgia.
They face charges including soliciting for child prostitution and attempted sexual assault on a child
“Investigators are still following through with this operation. They expect some more arrests, at least two, but possibly more,” said Megan Terlecky, a spokesperson for the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office.
Terlecky said crimes such as these are not necessarily atypical. In fact, they may even be on the rise, not just in Mesa County, but throughout the nation.
“Unfortunately, this is happening more and more,” she said. “The internet makes it very easy to connect. While this can be really good, there are also some dark sides to that. Parents and community members need to be aware of this problem. Having an open dialogue is key. Sometimes kids don’t want to speak up about bullying or inappropriate behavior online for fear of getting their device taken away. Parents need to keep lines of communication open with their kids so they can feel safe to be open about what is happening online.”
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-843-5678.
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