At least 30 people were arrested in an overnight sting on pedophiles operating online, police said Tuesday morning. It was reportedly the largest undercover operation of its kind in Israel.
The sting was reportedly planned for the last three months, after a man in custody for online distribution of child pornography signed an agreement to help find additional suspects.
The police were then able to penetrate chat rooms and forums frequented by pedophiles, and a policewoman posed online as a 12-year-old girl (and in some cases as a boy) to lure some of the men to a physical location, ostensibly for sex, but in reality to face arrest.
Others were arrested after indecent phone or video chat conversations with the undercover policewoman.
“I knew that pedophiles operated online, but I was shocked by how extensive it was,” the policewoman told Ynet News. “I told them I was 12 and that I was shy, but [my ‘age’] didn’t even deter them. They went to great lengths to try to get me to meet with them. The conversations were very sexual in nature. It was appalling.”
Reports indicate that the arrested men include businesspeople, civil servants, academics and an agronomist. According to Hebrew news site, some of those arrested are employed in sensitive positions, including an employee of the Defense Ministry and a Prison Services employee.
The perpetrators reportedly range in age from 20-57, most have no criminal records and one is a former police officer.
“The operation’s objectives were to isolate sex offenders who could potentially harm our children, to increase police deterrence and to raise the awareness of parents to the dangers of [youngsters] using a personal computer [for online social interaction],” said Central District Commander Benzi Sau in a press briefing.