Some 30 suspected pedophiles were arrested in early-morning raids across the
country on Tuesday, in the largest police operation against alleged sex
offenders to date.
The arrests came after officers from the computer
crimes unit of the Central Police District posed as a young girl and a young boy
on popular chat forums, attracting the attention of suspects who lurked on the
sites and preyed on minors.
After getting their targets to enter personal
one-to-one chats, the suspects made phone contact, and the calls were answered
by an undercover female officer pretending to be a child.
shocked at the ease with which innocent online conversations quickly became
perversely sexual. In some cases, suspects carried out lewd acts on web cameras,
and encouraged sexual acts on the part of the children they believed they were
In other cases, suspects sought to arrange a meeting for the
purpose of holding intercourse with minors, and were filmed by police waiting at
meeting points and speaking on the phone with the undercover officer. One
suspect allegedly arrived with condoms.
Meeting spots included a bus stop
and a forest in central Israel.
The suspects hail from all walks of life
in mainstream society. Some are married with young children of their own. They
include employees of security companies, media communications firms and drivers.
Some are highly educated.
The investigation began when a man caught with
pedophilic material on his computer agreed to teach police how to enter the
online networks and lure other pedophiles into chats.
stressed that the suspects loitered on mainstream ordinary chat rooms that had
no connection to sexual content, and urged vigilance on the part of parents,
saying that the online activities of children must be monitored.
exposed to very difficult comments,” said Dep.-Cmdr. Moti Aderi, head of the
Central District’s Investigations Branch.
The next stage of the
investigation is to determine just how many children were contacted by the
suspects. To that end, detectives will sift through the computers of suspects to
search for evidence of communications with minors.
At 3:30 a.m., Central
District chief Cmdr. Bentsi Sao addressed officers who were about to head
out to addresses and make arrests.
Speaking at Central District
headquarters in Ramle, Sao said police had three goals in the
“We want to distance sex offenders from the kids, increase
our deterrence against them and raise the alertness of parents to the dangers
inherent in home computers,” he said. “In the coming hours, dozens of suspects
will be arrested. I am sure this will expand even further and more arrests will
be made,” he added. “We know crime is drifting from the streets to
Sao urged the officers to “conquer your anger and emotions
despite the disturbing offenses. Our professionalism is part of the operation’s
Sao later admitted to being “very shocked by the severity of
the offenses. I’m concerned for the welfare of the children.”
that just as parents accompany their children when they cross a busy street, so
too they must accompany their children “in the virtual world and all of its
The investigation did not follow any police complaint or
intelligence, but rather, was the result of police initiative, the district
“The suspects are not known criminals. They live among
us, and on the surface, look totally normal,” he added. “We are amazed and
worried that within 10 minutes of being on an online chat, obscene sexual
content surfaced,” Sao said.
Three suspects aged 35 to 56 who came to
pre-arranged meetings have already been arrested in recent days.
undercover female officer who spoke on the phone to the suspects said she was
most stunned by her first encounter.
“I knew about pedophiles, but I
didn’t realize how dangerous they are,” she said.
“As soon as they see a
12-year-old online, they jump on them. They insisted on meetings, and tried to
lure me with perfume and money,” the officer, who cannot be identified,
“I would say that I was shy and a minor, but they told me not to
be embarrassed, that they weren’t shy,” she said. “Young innocent girls are not
aware of the dangers.
It is up to the parents to make sure that the web
usage is safe.”
The Knesset Committee on the Rights of the Child called
an emergency meeting following the arrests on Tuesday.
“Arrests of dozens
of suspects from all parts of society shows the how complicated this phenomenon
is. Until now, sufficient resources were not allocated towards reducing it,”
committee chairwoman Orly Levy-Abecassis (Yisrael Beytenu) said.
interministerial effort and a change in legislation, as well as budgetary
allowances and good planning, will stop this phenomenon that threatens every
Lahav Harkov contributed to this report.