HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Three people were arrested on Kauai over the weekend in a sting of suspected child predators.
The sting was part of a larger push ― called Operation Keiki Shield ― that’s netted more than two dozen suspects over the past eight months.
Of the 25 arrests so far, only one of those suspected child sex predators had a criminal record.
Through investigations, officials discovered many of those suspects had targeted kids before ― and gone undetected.
“They’re out there. They do live in our communities and they do target our children,” said state Attorney General Clare Connors.
Officials say Operation Keiki Shield is designed to expose child predators.
“We sort of reverse engineer their tactics against them,” said John Tobon, special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations, John Tobon.
Law enforcement officers pose as children online, using chat rooms and common social media apps.
“The fastest arrest time from the time the solicitation was made online until the individual showed up at the pre-arranged site was 25 minutes,” said Connors.
“That’s how quickly this type of enticement activity occurs.”
The first operation was back in March, when 12 people were arrested on Oahu.
Another operation was conducted in May. That one netted 10 arrests.
Over the weekend, the three additional arrested went down on Kauai in Operation Keiki Shield’s first neighbor island bust. Several persons of interest were also identified.
The Attorney General’s Office said two of the people arrested earlier this year have pleaded guilty.
Navy officials identified the two Sailors as Chief Petty Officer Corey Mickens and Petty Officer 3rd Class Maxwell Urbonas.
Both pleaded guilty to Article 134 (indecent language).
The Attorney General’s Office added that the Army also had three courts-martial resulting in two convictions, and one accepted a guilty plea.
“We must be aware of the dangers that our children face on the internet. We must monitor their online activities and we must protect them from the unthinkable,” said Kauai Police Chief Todd Raybuck.
Officials said over the past year there’s been an 18% increase in arrests of child predators. They also say children who are sexually abused are more susceptible to falling prey to sex traffickers later in life.
If you suspect a child you know is being sexually exploited online, report it at cybertipline.com.