Children face pervasive danger online, sheriff says

Aug. 11—RANDOLPH COUNTY — A recent multi-agency sting operation illustrates the danger of child predators using the internet to try to find victims, Randolph County's sheriff said Friday.

The operation, which involved 20 law enforcement agencies across North Carolina, began on Aug. 1, but planning for it began in January, Sheriff Gregory Seabolt said at a press conference. It was the first operation of its kind in the state and resulted in the Randolph County Sheriff's Office filing more than 40 felony charges against 19 men, mostly from Randolph and nearby counties.

"As technology advances, parents need to look over their children online and keep safeguards on their computers," he said. "North Carolina is No. 9 in the country in human trafficking. This is a form of human trafficking."

Those who were arrested in the sting ranged in age from 23 to 70, and they included men who were prominent in their communities, Seabolt said. Some of them were trying to meet children as young as 9.

"These people need help," he said.

Seabolt advised parents to reach out to the authorities if they learn their child is being contacted online by someone they suspect may be an adult.

He said he is looking into the sheriff's office developing a human trafficking task force.

Planning has already begun for the next Operation Child Predator, he said.