Police officers have arrested 11 men after 23 of the children were found to have suffered sexual abuse in Perth, Australia.
According to police, the accused predators allegedly used social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook to target 140 teenagers aged as young as 13.
The Operation Timing Belt was launched by detectives from the Sex Offender Management Squad.
140 teenagers aged between 13 and 19 have been targeted by the group and 23 of them were victims of abuse.
According to WA police, some of the accused predators would share their victims and compare information about them.
Acting Detective Senior Sergeant Matt Daly said the accused offenders allegedly used social media to contact the targets to ‘ultimately engage in sexual contact with them.’
Snr Sgt Daly explained: “The majority of offences are non-physical communication via popular social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, and via mobile phones.
“Mobile phones and the ongoing rise of social media platforms provides offenders with new ways to reach out to youths in order to commit crimes and we’re working hard to crackdown on this behaviour.”
18 predators had been charged, with 135 charges laid for non-sexual offenses, including animal cruelty, drug, and trespass offenses.
State Crime Assistant Commissioner Brad Royce also said that Operation Timing Belt showed that parents, carers, and children must be vigilant when it comes to cybersecurity.
He said: “They come in from likes and friends from other people and they get accepted and then they start grooming.
“You wouldn’t let a stranger into your home if they randomly knocked on the front door – likewise, you shouldn’t allow someone to access your online profile unless you know them.”
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