Over the last five days 18, people were arrested in San Joaquin County for attempting to have sexual contact with a minor – tying the San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Department’s record for an operation of that type.
And with additional resources allocated to the investigation including some provided from the Federal government, the net for nabbing those who would wish to harm a minor was much larger this time around.
According to Lathrop Police Chief Ryan Biedermann, the operation also included representatives from the Department of Homeland Security, the California Department of Justice, and even the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office that aided in apprehending somebody who was aggressively pursuing the undercover decoy online but was outside of the operation’s jurisdiction.
Having that kind of cooperation, Biedermann said, is exactly what he had in mind when he championed operations like these to take criminals off the street before they had the chance to harm a child.
“When you’re working an assignment like child abuse and sexual assault there isn’t much of a chance to be proactive – you just get these horrific cases that come across your desk,” Biedermann said. “I was in a class one time that spoke to this emerging trend in human trafficking and child sex exploitation, and I took that idea and ran with it even as I promoted into different assignments and worked with different people.
“It has definitely become a passion because we don’t want these cases to progress to where there are actual victims.”
The operated yielded 51 arrests over the course of the five days including 18 for attempting to meet a minor for sex, 16 for solicitation of prostitution, 11 for prostitution, three for pimping and or pandering, two for outstanding warrants, and one for human trafficking.
The average age of the people attempting to contact a minor was 36 – five years older than the average age of the people who were arrested for solicitation of prostitution.
While the prostitution cases were not the primary focus of the operation, Biedermann said that those types of crimes open the door for the sorts of criminals that they were seeking – those that wish to do harm to children. By targeting those that commit crimes of a sexual nature, he said, it diminishes the opportunity and closes the gap where a minor might be able to fall through.
“Hopefully we’re driving down the demand by getting rid of the supply,” Biedermann said. “What we’re really focusing on are the ads where the person looks underage and we don’t know what we’re going to find until we’re there – it could be a human trafficking situation with a minor or an adult that just looks young.
“By removing that it sends a message that we’re not going to tolerate that here in San Joaquin County.”
Even though the operation matched the previous high total of adults that were seeking minors for sexual contact, Biedermann said that it became apparent during this operation that on a local level the message has been sent – not a single person who was arrested was from Lathrop.
And more than a few of the people that were in contact with the decoy reconsidered meeting in person when they found out that the suggested meeting spot was in Lathrop – often, Biedermann said, because they had heard about the number of police officers in the community or seen the stories of previous sting operations that nabbed people for similar crimes.
“These cases that we’re doing now – that we’re actively pursuing over the course of this operation – are conversations that occur over the course of a couple of hours,” Biedermann said. “Now think about that for a second – over the course of a couple of hours these grown men are trying to have sex with an underage child and are making all of these agreements and having these really lewd, egregious conversations.
“I think that when people are afraid to come here to do things like that the message is out in that community – don’t come here. You will be arrested.”
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 209.249.3544.