SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC 4 Utah) – Law enforcement agencies across Utah are celebrating success, Wednesday, now that more than 70 alleged child predators have been taken into custody.
Investigators say their leads mostly came from members of the public who saw something and spoke up.
For the past several months, Utah’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force has taken part in a nationwide project called Operation Broken Heart III. The mission was to rescue as many victims of child sex exploitation possible, and Utah Attorney General Sean Reyes says investigators did exactly that.
“We set up elaborate stings… and you saw the laundry list of different types of charges,” Reyes said during a discussion with Good 4 Utah’s Ali Monsen. Some of those charges include manufacturing child pornography and sexual abuse of a child.
“We wanted to continue to try to wake up the community and public to that [reality],” Reyes said.
Authorities made 71 arrests related to people preying on children in some way. In addition, the AG’s SECURE Strike Force also launched eleven separate human trafficking investigations.
“The elements we have to prove for human trafficking are threat, force, or coercion… There’s been around 12 victims to 14 victims [of human trafficking] some being minors,” explained Leo Lucey, Chief of Criminal Investigations for the Utah Attorney General’s Office.
Officials credit their success largely to tips from the public, saying typically the crazier a story sounds, the more likely it is actually true. Reyes says people often come forward saying things like, “You probably won’t believe this, but…” and “I’m a little reticent to say this but…”
He says those types of tips often result in a case.
Officials with the AG’s office say the more agencies that get on board with ICAC, the more lives they will save.
“We are getting more and more reports and better intel…” said Leo Lucey, Chief of Criminal Investigations at the Utah Attorney General’s Office. “I don’t know that we’d have even recognized it five or six years ago,” he explained.
Investigators say now, instead of taking down one person at a time, their focus is taking down entire organizations at a time, and while education and training contributes to their success, authorities say the public is still their most powerful tool.
Members of the public who see something suspicious are asked to report tips through the following resources:
Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Tip Line: 801-281-1211
SECURE Strike Force Tip Line: 801-200-3443