8 snared in Fairfax Co. child solicitation sting

WASHINGTON — A three-day internet predator sting in Fairfax County, Virginia, netted eight arrests last month and police say the high number of apprehensions should be a reminder to local parents just how pervasive online solicitation is in the digital era.

Fairfax County police released the names of seven of those arrested, including a registered sex offender. Charges include computer solicitation, indecent liberties and attempted indecent exposure.

Officers posed as middle school-aged children online and quickly received solicitations from the men and even sexually explicit images. The officers set up meetings with the men and the eight were arrested when they arrived at the meeting spot expecting to meet a child, police said.

Police spokesman Don Gotthardt described law enforcement efforts to combat child solicitation, including such undercover stings, as an “ongoing battle.”

“We ask parents to be very vigilant in monitoring their children’s online activity,” Gotthardt said.

As soon as a child begins using an electronic device — regardless of their age — parents need to be aware of who they are interacting with online. Children are also less likely to have intimate conversations with strangers if they use their devices in a common space where other family members or adults are around, he said.

Parents who suspect that their child might be the victim of child exploitation can call county police or the FBI. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children also provides resources for parents about how to protect their children.

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