WTVM Editorial 11/19/17: “Operation Hidden Guardian”

(WTVM) - Most people know that virtually every action we take online can be tracked and traced back to us.

Nevertheless, some people persist in trying to use the internet for nefarious purposes like soliciting sex with minors.

That's what a group of recently arrested men in the Columbus area did recently. But thank goodness law enforcement was one step ahead of them.

It was called "Operation Hidden Guardian" and the U.S. Attorney charged 20 men, 15 of them who live in our area, with what is called "attempted online enticement of a minor."

The charge is deadly serious. It carries a 10-year mandatory minimum sentence, with a maximum of life in prison.

"Operation Hidden Guardian" was a five-day effort that snagged men ranging in age from 22 to 55, who police say expected to meet a child for sex or who would exploit a child by purchasing sex with a minor.

The suspect list is a true cross-section of men: among them a mechanic, fork-lift driver, school custodian and an electrician. Needless to say, they are all presumed innocent until proven guilty.

But just the fact of the investigation itself points to the continuing dangers for children and young adults who seek relationships or who pursue minors online.

We are grateful to the many law enforcement agencies who quietly, cleverly and professionally spent months building their investigations, using social media platforms and other online tools to identify offenders. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Columbus Police, the Secret Service and the FBI worked together, trying to make a dent in online predatory behavior.

"Operation Hidden Guardian" is the type of operation we need to support and publicize to remind parents of the very real dangers online for minors when police are not there to stop it.

General Manager Holly Steuart brings two editorials a week to WTVM. If you would like to respond to an editorial, e-mail your response to hsteuart@wtvm.com or write to:

WTVM Editorial Committee

1909 Wynnton Road

Columbus, GA 31906

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