September 27, 2018
On Tuesday, the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office announced that 24 men in one state were arrested for communicating with and attempting to lure minors through the use of social media and video games.
The arrests were in result of a week-long, collaborative, multi-agency law enforcement operation called “Operation Open House.” Each individual under arrest was caught individually lurking on social media in search of vulnerable, underage boys or girls to sexually assault only to arrive at a meeting place to discover they were actually conversing with law enforcement. Among those arrested were a police officer, nurse, firefighter, college students, and a registered sex-offender. Veronica Allende, director of the division of criminal justice for the state of New Jersey, announced that one man even traveled more than 90 miles to meet up with his potential victim.
In a press conference, the attorney general, Gurbir Grewal, spoke to the many social media apps and games used by these sexual predators such as Tinder, Grindr, Live.ly, Musical.ly, Fortnite, Minecraft, and many more, warning parents, “It’s absolutely critical for parents to familiarize yourselves with these apps, just as you are vigilant about a stranger approaching your child in a park, you need to be equally if not more vigilant about the dangers lurking in these new cyber playgrounds.”
The attorney general further stressed that parents should be monitoring their kids' internet activity due to the chat functions on extremely popular games such as Fortnite and Minecraft.
According to Scary Mommy, all 24 men were charged with second-degree luring while some were additionally charged with offenses including attempted debauching morals of a child, attempted sexual assault on a minor, and attempted showing obscene material to a minor.
The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force used in the sting also highlighted apps like Whisper, Skout, Omegle, Chat Avenue, Chat Roulette, Whishbone, Paltalk, Yubo, Kik, Hot or Not, Down, and Tumblr along with the game Discord as ones used by predators in this specific or previous cases.
In light of this ongoing fight to protect children from the dangers of child predators who use the internet as their weapon, Grewal advised parents to, “Make sure that the apps on your children’s devises are age appropriate. Talk to your children about social media and chat apps like these. Let them know that the people they encounter may not be who they initially seem to be. Warn them not to share personal information or pictures with strangers they encounter on the internet. Only together can we ensure the safety and well-being of our children.”