Israel Police arrests dozens of suspected pedophiles in nationwide operation
Suspects lured in by an undercover female police officer, who assumed the online presence of a 12-year-old girl.
About 30 individuals suspected of pedophilia were arrested overnight Tuesday, the result of a police operation in which an undercover female officer assumed the identity of a 12-year-old-girl.
During the operation, called “computerized interception,” a large police contingent stormed the houses of suspects all over the country, from Be’er Sheva in the south, to Kiryat Shemona in the north. The suspects will be brought to the magistrate’s court in Ramle, to await further proceedings.
In most cases, the suspects initiated meetings with the undercover police officer, and some of the suspects arrived for those meetings with contraceptive devices. Three suspects were immediately brought into custody, as investigators determined that they were liable to harm children as the investigation progresses. Investigators were able to document some of the suspects performing indecent acts in front of webcams.
The suspects arrested range in age from 35 to 56, and include academics, security personnel, as married men, with children. According to investigators, suspects are generally educated, with no criminal background.
The operation was launched roughly three months ago, as a man suspected of distributing pedophilic materials was arrested by the Central District’s fraud unit. Police suspected the man arrested was in possession of “relatively low-level material” – for instance, there were no nude photos among the materials.
In questioning, it was determined that the suspect did not meet with minors, but had extensive experience in identifying minors on the web. As such, the Central District decided to enlist the help of the suspect in channeling into the realm of internet pedophilia.
The suspect, who has been signed on as an expert witness, assisted the undercover police officer as well as other investigators, and taught them the language used within internet pedophilia over the course of a few weeks.
Over the last three months, fraud unit officials conducted an undercover investigation, during which they uploaded pictures of a 12-year-old boy and girl to the internet. Investigators used the profiles on various websites and chat rooms known to attract pedophiles.
During the undercover operation, investigators spoke with suspects, abiding by guidelines they had learned from their expert witness. Contact with suspects began in public chat rooms, though after a short time, suspects invited the would-be minors to chat privately. In most cases, after only a few minutes of chatting, the suspects suggested speaking on the phone. At this point, the reins were passed to the undercover police officer, chosen for her childlike voice, who would then speak with the suspects.
The undercover police officer explained that she was surprised to learn just how widespread the internet pedophilia phenomenon is. “I was shocked after the first phone conversation. I had heard that pedophilia existed, but I couldn’t really imagine it. During every conversation I repeated my age numerous times, claiming to be a 12-year-old girl. Very quickly I was offered money for sex. They told me they would buy me clothes and perfume,” said the officer.
Before ending the phone calls, the police officer would set a time and place for a sexual encounter with the suspect, according to their request. In some cases, suspects suggested a meeting in a forest or field. In other cases, suspects were arrested in close proximity to the apartments at which they suggested the meetings take place.
Commander of the Central Division, Bentzi Sau, explained the situation according to his top priority. “Parents, demonstrate responsibility for your children in the home, in every respect regarding the computer,” said Sau. “Just as we teach our children to cross the street, we must teach them to use the household computer safely. We executed an extremely important operation, which should serve as a warning siren to each and every parent in Israel,” continued Sau.
Vice-commander Moti Edri, investigation officer from the Central Division, attempted to dispel the common misconception that pedophiles look for targets only on websites meant for children. According to Edri, the investigation uncovered that pedophiles are active on many websites, including leading websites in Israel, after learning pedophiles method’s for finding children.
“As we delved deeper into the subject, we understood that it is very similar to the street. Suspects target children on the internet just as they do in public parks. It’s a difficult trend,” said Edri.
“We conducted our operations before 8 P.M., so as not to raise the suspected pedophiles’ suspicions. We must remember that it is currently summer vacation, and our children could be in front of the computer until late at night, so we must be responsible with them,” continued Edri.
I believe that had we not stopped the operation, we would have gotten to hundreds. Every day, new suspects are found trying to harm children. As far as we’re concerned, we’ve uncovered a world of which we were aware, but until now, we were unaware of its dimensions. We will continue to uncover them,” said Edri.