NEW JERSEY - Authorities in New Jersey say they've arrested 19 people on charges of trying to lure minors for sex.
State Attorney General Gurbir Grewal and Somerset County Prosecutor Michael Robertson on Thursday disclosed details about the sting called Operation Open Door.
“Our children and their online safety is the utmost concern to the Somerset County Prosecutor’s Office. Social media apps allow predators into our homes and as law enforcement, we must do what we can to make it a safer environment,” said Prosecutor Robertson. “We hope that this collaborative operation will be eye-opening for parents. Although, 19 online child predators have been arrested, parents must learn the apps that their children are using and the inherent dangers within.”
Officials say the suspects used social media and chat apps to arrange to have sex with boys and girls. But instead of minors, officials say the suspects were communicating with police officers posing as children.
Officials urged parents to closely monitor their children's online activities.
Most of the suspects were arrested when they arrived at houses where law enforcement was waiting.
"The chilling reality that today's parents must face is that online child predators could be preying on their children without their knowledge, even as they sit together at home, seemingly safe," said Colonel Patrick J. Callahan of the New Jersey State Police. "Investigations like “Operation Open Door”, serve as a warning not just for parents, but as a warning that those seeking out underage victims to abuse are themselves being sought out by undercover detectives, who are supported by a collaborative team of law enforcement dedicated to bringing child predators to justice."
The Office of the Attorney General and the Division of Consumer Affairs have announced a new initiative to teach children and teenagers the importance of protecting themselves and their data while online.
The suspects are being held in the Somerset County Jail.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.