GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – The Pitt County Sheriff’s Office says 36 arrests were made in a three-month undercover investigation targeting sexual predators.
They dubbed it Operation “Casual Encounter”. The operation targeted sexual predators who use craigslist.com, backpage.com and other social media sites utilized by predators, often for the purpose of trolling to find underage children for sexual pleasure.
Those arrested included prostitutes, “john’s” and eight suspects who arranged to meet children.
Detectives said these men should be ashamed of themselves.
“It’s a very dark and disturbing world. It really is,” said Sargent Ken Adams, of the Street Crimes Unit.
Three phases of Operation Casual Encounter took three months to complete.
“The initial goal was to target specifically individuals that are trying to harm our children,” Adams commented.
That’s just phase one. Phase two and three targeted johns, or people looking to buy sex, and those willing to sell their bodies for money.
“We quickly found out that we were dealing with something that’s pretty large,” Adams said.
The 36 people arrested include engineers, a medical tech and even a pilot.
Out of all the arrests, this group, phase one, the people who tried to solicit sex with a child have both the detectives and sheriff up in arms.
“I think it’s disturbing, disgusting actually and I think they should be ashamed of themselves,” Adams said.
“A lot of these people are going to be quite embarrassed when it’s made public who they were that got arrested and they should be,” Sheriff Neil Elks of Pitt County said.
All of the arrests started on the internet. Deputies posed as either children, prostitutes or johns under the casual encounter section on various websites.
You don’t see people waiting on a street corner anymore. Now, everything’s done through the internet, and all it takes is a quick tap and your add is posted online.
If people get nothing else from the story, the Sheriff’s Office wants to send a message.
“The next time you go to backpage and think that you’re going to buy sex or pay for sex, you may be talking to law enforcement,” Adams said.