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Law enforcement warns predators ‘Hands Off Our Kids’

Undercover operation arrests 19 people across Fresno County for allegedly attempting to contact a minor for sex and other related crimes

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Fresno County – Local law enforcement teamed up with state and federal agencies to tell 19 potential child predators to put their hands in the air and to keep their “Hands Off Our Kids.”
That was the name of the undercover operation announced Nov. 7 by federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies, including the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, Fresno Police Department, Fresno County District Attorney’s Office, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of California, Homeland Security Investigations, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and California Department of Justice.
“I am proud of the results of ‘Operation Hands Off Our Kids’ and thankful for all of the local, state, and federal law enforcement partners that worked diligently to identify and arrest predators in our city,” Fresno Police Chief Paco Balderrama said. “For those thinking about committing a crime against one of our children in our city, you can’t hide behind the anonymity of a computer screen in Fresno. The Fresno Police Department will continue to collaborate with other law enforcement agencies to identify, arrest, and prosecute those that target and intend to hurt our children to the fullest extent of the law.”
During Operation Hands Off Our Kids, law enforcement personnel posed as children as young as 13 years old to identify, contact, and arrest anyone who may be trying to target children for sex. In these encounters, suspects used sexually explicit language and sent graphic photos to undercover personnel. Once suspects requested to meet with a child, law enforcement arrived at a predetermined location and arrested them. The operation began Nov. 2 and lasted through Nov. 5. It was carried out across Fresno County in collaboration with multiple law enforcement partners. The arrests have been referred to the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office for potential criminal prosecution.
“Let me be absolutely clear: Using the internet to target children for sex is a reprehensible and despicable crime,” California Attorney General Rob Bonta said. “If you go after our children, we will hold you accountable. I’m deeply grateful to our partners in Fresno and in the federal government for their efforts to help keep our kids safe. At the California Department of Justice, we will continue to use all of the tools at our disposal to protect the people of our state.”
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, child sexual abuse is a significant public health problem and includes instances where the child does not fully comprehend, does not consent to or is unable to give informed consent to, or is not developmentally prepared for and cannot give consent to sexual activity. Online enticement — communicating with someone believed to be a child via the internet with the intent to commit a sexual offense or abduction — is a growing problem and form of exploitation, which can include children being groomed to take sexually explicit images or meeting face-to-face with someone for sexual purposes. This type of victimization can occur on a wide array of online platforms, including social media, messaging apps, or online games. Many children wait to report or never report child sexual abuse and research on the subject likely underestimates the true impact of the problem.
“I would like to encourage our community members to be vigilant when it comes to visiting websites and social media outlets,” Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said. “Online predators often pretend to be someone else in order to lure their victims in and take advantage of them. They are master manipulators who pose a great danger to our children.”
Although estimates vary across studies, the research shows that about 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 13 boys in the United States experience child sexual abuse. Someone known and trusted by the child or child’s family members, perpetrates 91% of child sexual abuse. Experiencing child sexual abuse can affect how a person thinks, acts, and feels over a lifetime. This can result in short- and long-term physical, mental, and behavioral health consequences.
“The FBI is deeply committed to working collaboratively with our law enforcement partners at all levels to identify and arrest predators intent on exploiting youth,” Sean Ragan, said Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Sacramento Field Office, said. “This operation is an example of how law enforcement can successfully work together to protect our nation’s youth and stop predators in their tracks.”
If you believe a child is in immediate danger, call 911. You may also report suspected child sexual exploitation to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at report.cybertip.org. General information regarding sexual violence is also available on the California Department of Justice’s website at oag.ca.gov/sexual-violence.
“The investigation and prosecution of all forms of human trafficking is a top priority for our office,” U.S. Attorney Phillip A. Talbert said. “Our office has an outstanding record of prosecuting human trafficking offenses, and we are committed to continuing and enhancing this critical work as we work with our federal, state, and local law enforcement partners.”

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