Negev police arrest 26 suspected pedophiles following undercover operation

Female cop disguised as teenage girl held online chat session with suspects.

Israel police car (Illustrative) (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
Israel police car (Illustrative)
Negev District police arrested 26 men suspected of online pedophilia following a seven-month undercover investigation that involved a policewoman disguised as a young girl talking to suspects on various online chat forums.
On Monday night, police raided homes from Kiryat Shmona in the North to Eilat in the South.
Suspects ranging in age from 21 to 44 years were arrested as police confiscated their personal computers, cell phones and other evidence.
Police said they collected evidence against the suspects over the course of the last seven months for pedophilia offenses that include indecent acts against minors and sexual harassment.
“We view very gravely any harm done to minors and the helpless, and it’s also a crime in the virtual sphere,” The Israel Police said in a statement released on Tuesday. “The Israel Police invests great resources and the best technological means, and despite the difficulty inherent in locating and prosecuting criminals hiding in the virtual space while exploiting the use of applications on the network, it operates with determination and creativity, all with the aim of bringing about the arrest of the pedophiles who are stalking our children in networks and endangering their physical and mental well-being.
“The abilities of the Israel Police and the Southern District in particular to deal responsibly and wisely with suspected pedophiles who use the Internet for harm, out of a distorted perception that in the network world everything allowed and everything is open, led tonight – after professional operation by the Negev Central Unit, to the arrest of dozens of suspects,” Southern District Commander Motti Cohen said during a briefing on Tuesday evening.
“We have the responsibility to be present there, online, with the appropriate tools... we must be at least one step ahead in the technological and intelligence world,” he added.
The suspects were due to be brought to the Beersheba Magistrate’s Court later on Tuesday for remand extension hearings.
A gag order was imposed on every identifying detail related to the identity of the victims and to the police officers involved in the investigation.
Police called on parents to be involved in and alert to the conduct of youths on the Internet and to guide them about its inherent dangers. Among other things, the police said parents should warn children about the dangers of sharing pictures with others or of responding to strangers online.