PUYALLUP, Wash. -- Authorities arrested 21 men this week as part of Operation Net Nanny, an undercover sting to get dangerous sexual predators off the streets. The men were from Aberdeen, Auburn, Bremerton, Federal Way, Gresham, JBLM, Port Orchard, Lakewood, Lynnwood, Olympia, Puyallup, Seattle, Shelton and Tacoma.
The Washington State Patrol says the men contacted undercover officers they believed to be underage children online and set up an in-person meeting for sex.
Pierce County Prosecutor Mark Lindquist's office said in a news release that all 21 men had been charged with attempted rape of a child.
Lindquist said, "We want to send a loud message -- don't solicit children for sex unless you want to go to prison."
In late July, the Washington State Patrol’s Missing and Exploited Children's Task Force (MECTF) conducted an undercover “Net Nanny” operation in rural Pierce County.
The operation involved multiple state and federal law enforcement agencies, with officers posting and responding to advertisements on social media and internet websites known to cater to sexual encounters.
Undercover troopers contacted or responded to men online. The conversations then moved from online to texting. Once it became clear that the men were looking for sex with a child, undercover officers arranged meetings. When the men arrived at the location, troopers arrested them.
“While the Internet is a powerful tool for our nation, criminals using it to target our communities’ necessitates a need for this type of proactive investigations by our law enforcement troopers and partners in order to combat these horrible crimes,” says WSP Chief John R. Batiste. “This operation is protecting our vulnerable children and making communities safer.”
The men face varying charges, including rape of a child, commercial sex abuse of a minor, communication with a child for immoral purposes and more.
This is the 8th “Net Nanny” operation in the state since 2015.