Lehi police reveal details of sting operations designed to catch online predators | #childpredator | #onlinepredator | #sextrafficing

An undercover sting operation led to the arrests of three separate adults seeking sex with young children online in Lehi in mid-October.

The sting was led by the Lehi Police Department, with the assistance of other law enforcement agencies around the state and the FBI.

These operations normally consist of chatting with predators on Social Media, but police rarely talk about how they come into contact with them.

Police could not release too much information about the operation because it could compromise their work, but they gave KUTV an inside peek into the process that goes into catching an online predator and it is a lot more simple than one might think.

Sgt. Jeff Smith, a detective with Lehi’s Special Victims Unit, said there is no special setup for sting operations. He does what most people do when they go online—he uses his phone.

“[You] create a profile, put your email in, profile names In, whatever you want it to be,” said Smith about creating the profile.

For police the setup is simple, but with a bit outcome, preventing the next victim.

“When I’m out there doing that, and arresting individuals that are engaged in that behavior it’s super rewarding for me,” Smith added.

However, he said it’s just as easy for a predator to create a profile.

“You can access people so easily and readily, and it can be a lot more inconspicuous,” he said.

Which makes it more important to keep a sting operation simple, Smith said, “Sometimes we get tips but most of the time we are just going out and kind of fishing.”

Smith said most perpetrators are local and searching for a child to exploit nearby. He also said he encounters more first-time predators than repeat offenders.

However, he said predators are always active and searching.

“It’s really dictated by the individual we’re chatting with,” he said, “they kind of drive the topics and what we’re chatting about.”

When asked if the predators are the ones who make the first move, he said most of the time they do.

Part of what gores into a police sting is making a false profile. It includes making up a name, and uploading photographs of a minor child, but the chat dictates what happens next.

“It’s not always about the meet,” said Smith, “it can come down to these individuals asking for photos to be sent and sexually explicit conversations.”

He said the most frustrating part is the unknown. Smith said there is no time frame predators lurk online, nor demographic or profile characteristic to search for.

“I’ve seen profile pictures not of a person, or it’s blurred,” said Smith, “or it’s sometimes the real person that the picture is of and their name or something linked to that name is on their profile.”

He said predators are on any platform where there is a chat setting, and anywhere a child is online.

“Really anywhere,” said Smith, “it doesn’t matter what it is, that’s where you can find them.”

Smith said you simply can’t ever be too safe when it comes to monitoring your child online. He said to make sure you continue to monitor conversations and to encourage them to let you know if they ever feel pressured to do anything in a chat that makes them feel uncomfortable.

Smith added that predators do not start with a meetup request. It can start with a chat, lead to photo exchanges, then go to sexual conversations and rise to a meetup.

Monitoring your child’s conversations can prevent extortion and keep them safe from predators.

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