After a 10-day long investigation, 38 men have been arrested and charged with traveling to meet a minor for sex and other crimes, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. Operation Cyber Child was conducted by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, the task force coordinator for the Central Florida Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC).
“These operations have been going on and law enforcement is going to continue a proactive approach to catch these predators,” said Mile Phillips, Assistant Special Agent In Charge of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The investigation involved the fictitious posting of ads or profiles on websites like Craigslist, posing as children or the guardians of children. Despite similar operations in the past, these men began and continued talking to these detectives whom they thought were children.
The involved men then started asking for sex, sending pornographic pictures and asking the minors for nude photos. Several of the men even drove to an undisclosed location to engage in sexual activity.
“We encourage parents to take a more involved approach to sit down with their kids to see what they are doing online, Phillips said. “We are trying to get parents to filter and monitor the kinds of websites teens are going on.”
There are different programs and settings on all kinds of technology that can help parents monitor or filter what their children are doing or seeing.
Phillips said “There are a lot of filters and parental controls built into the iPhone. You can choose what you want your kids to go to based on the pure rating system.”
One particularly scary name on the list of names is Matthew Chillcott, a fifth-grade teacher at Lawton Chiles Elementary School in Orlando.
“If you have anything wrong to do with children, you certainly would never work for a school district,” said Kathy Marsh, Senior Manager of Media Relations at Orange County Public Schools. “They(teachers) have to pass a background check.”
When asked about the community reaction to Chillcott’s arrest, Marsh said the principal “hasn’t received any calls” from angry or worried parents.
Chillcott chatted online with an undercover detective, who posed as a 14-year old girl, since January, 2012. Along with chatting, he agreed to travel to the undisclosed location to have sex with the girl.
“Parents need to sit down and have a good dialoge with their kids and explain why it is that they need to filter and monitor what their kids are doing,” Phillips said. “There are dangerous people out there.”
For more information on how to keep your children safe, visit http://www.secureflorida.org and look under the tab titled “family”.