SHALIMAR, Fla. (WKRG) — Sheriff Aden with Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office (OCSO) says 32 people were identified in Operation Night Owl, a five-day operation targeting online solicitations of children by sexual predators.
12 of those 32 were arrested and facing felony charges. The remaining 20 have been identified and are to be apprehended in the coming weeks.
“There’s 32 different felons now, 32 different suspects, and each one of them will be charged with multiple charges.”
Sheriff Aden said in a press conference Friday the adult male suspects were contacting underage children online with social media apps, video game message boards, and hidden chat room apps.
“In just the last five years our cases on an annual basis have gone from 38 to 180 as of last year in 2020. That is a 373% percent increase in five years in this type of crime in our community.”
OCSO deputies worked undercover to open chat rooms. Sheriff Aden says the suspects made themselves known to the investigators trying to solicit sexual acts.
Sheriff Aden says the internet crimes against children (ICAC) unit has been a priority for OCSO in recent years.
“This year’s fiscal budget we’ve added another investigator for that and just one agency cant do it. It takes the multiple task force of multiple agencies.”
The operation was a joint effort with Northwest Florida’s ICAC task force program.
The following agencies were involved in the operation from August 5-9:
- OCSO, ECSO, SRCSO, WCSO
- Office of State Attorney
- Flrodia department of Law Enforecment (FDLE)
- Crestview Police Department
- US Office of Homeland secutiry
- Airforce OSI
- NCIS jacksonville