A week long online predator and child exploitation sting generated 12 arrests in Dallas County.
The small sheriff’s office in south central Arkansas took on the operation as an experiment to see how prevalent these crimes are in the area.
“I think that it’s more rampant now than it’s ever been,” Dallas County Investigator Chuck Barker said.
Since last Monday, at least 12 potential online predators were communicating with who they thought was a teenaged girl from the Fordyce area.
Who they were actually talking to was Barker and Deputy Jacob Cain.
All 12 were arrested for internet stalking of a child, a class Y Felony, after meeting up with the virtual victim.
The offenders ranged from 22 to 53 years old. Three were from Louisiana, the other 9 were from central and south central Arkansas.
“If they’re willing to come from other states to victimize our children, then we’re willing to be here to catch them,” Barker said.
The sheriff’s office won’t reveal where they found their potential predators because they are still working to catch more using different names, profiles and interests.
“We only had one victim. So we haven’t even explored the gamut of potential victims,” Barker said.
But they plan to. They want to expose the dark reality and protect their most vulnerable from predators using the only resource they have — themselves.
“We don’t have any extra resources, we don’t have any extra money or extra time, or officers to dedicate to this type of operation, but when you’re talking about protecting children, that’s paramount,” Barker said.
These arrests also serve as a reminder for parents to not use the internet as a virtual babysitter.
“We think that because children are quiet and in their rooms playing on their phones that they’re safe, and that’s just not the case, as we’ve seen 12 times in the last 7 days,” Barker said.
Of the 12 men arrested, some are also facing drug and weapons charges. We’re told some brought the items with them when they were planning to meet the teenaged girl.