Today, the world is just a small bit safer for our children. 245 people were arrested in an enormous child sex abuse operation. The size and scope of these crimes is both shocking and disturbing, but we have to be grateful that these monsters will be charged for their crimes, and hopefully serve ridiculously long sentences.
The arrests were made by an international coalition of law enforcement, but it was led by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement. All but 23 of the suspects were arrested in the United States.
CNN provides a detailed look at the victims of these crimes, some still children and some now grown adults.
The agency said that during the course of Operation Sunflower, law enforcement officers identified 123 victims of child exploitation and removed 44 of those children from their alleged abusers with whom they were living. The other cases involved victims who were exploited by people outside their homes or children who were harmed years ago and are now adults.
Several of the children were shockingly young. Five were under age 3. Nine were between the ages of 4 and 6. Of the 123 victims, 110 lived in the United States in 19 different states.
Five victims under the age of 3. I’ve said this sentence over in my head countless times since hearing about these arrests. Five toddlers and infants who were victims of sexual exploitation. Five children younger than my own daughter, who were abused by grown adults. Monsters.
The fact that these despicable human beings have been arrested makes me breathe a deep sigh of relief. But my heart still aches for the children caught in these horrible circumstances. And ICE warns that there are still plenty of open cases, ones where they need the public’s help to bring justice for these young victims.
The name of the operation to bring down these criminals has drawn interest and it’s story is nothing short of amazing. It demonstrates the great lengths that these dedicated law enforcement officials go to while trying to save our world’s children.
The name Operation Sunflower was chosen to commemorate a case from 2011 in which Danish law enforcement officials shared images and chat board information about a 16-year-old boy who allegedly planned to rape an 11-year-old girl. One image taken from a moving car showed a road sign with a sunflower on it. ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations determined that the road sign was unique to Kansas. Agents were then able to find the exact stretch of road where the picture was taken and to locate the girl.