Sumter County STARCOP Project

This article was first published March 29th, 2012. Some of the laws may have changed since this that date.

Sumter County Sex Sting

In Sumter County, Florida, a sex sting resulted in 23 arrests of men who are being accused of setting up a sexual encounter with a minor on the internet.

The sting is part of Sumter County’s STARCOP project, which is a proactive, undercover operation designed to catch persons targeting children on the Internet for the purpose of illicit relations, or the sexual exploitation of children, according to a recent news release.

Detectives posing as minors, guardians and adults communicated with men interested in having illicit sex with children, according to the release. The suspects ranged in ages as young as 19 and as old as 68, all facing solicitation charges. In addition to making the arrests, police were able to confiscate computers and 12 vehicles.

This sex sting was the second part of the STARCOP operation. In the first one, in March 2011, 22 persons were arrested. Detectives worked in conjunction with other law-enforcement agencies in Citrus, Lake, Manatee, Orange, Osceola and Polk Counties.

The state of Florida pours many resources into conducting sex strings. Often, they will use the help of the FDLE and FBI in conducting elaborate stings that intend to catch as many sexual predators in a 2 or 3 days campaign as possible. Though the general consensus is that the public favors time and resources being used this way, it is somewhat questionable if every single criminal being caught in the act was actually guilty and what level of coercion was being used from the law enforcement standpoint.

Having sex with a child is considered by many an atrocious sex crime. Of course, the public can expect that the alleged suspects will have their own sex crime attorneys and lawyers to present their criminal defense, which based on the above evidence is going to make a strong case difficult. But according to the law of the land, everyone is entitled to their own attorney, and the results of the case may be contingent on the experience and integrity of that attorney.

Protecting your children online can go a long way. Know who your children are communicating with on the Internet. Get to know their friends, whether on Facebook, MySpace or some other social networking website.

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