Operation Bulldog: Week long sting to catch sex predators online



Posted on August 15, 2009 at 6:38 PM

Updated Tuesday, Oct 13 at 2:58 PM

(WHAS11) - Police call it Operation Bulldog, a week-long sting operation. The end result: eight people behind bars.

Those indictments could be just the beginning, more warrants and arrests are still pending.

In Operation Bulldog, two detectives spent each day for a full week pretending to be young girls and boys talking to adults online.

In some cases, it only took a few minutes for the suspects to start making plans to meet the children.

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But when they showed up, the police were there and ready.

At the end of the week, eight people have been indicted for sexual enticement of a child online. The sting is part of metro police's ongoing effort to target sex predators online.

Detectives tell WHAS, these were not people you would suspect. One was even a youth counselor at an orphanage.

All of them are accused of wanting to have sex with children, but police say some may have wanted even more than that.

Detective Dan Jackman and Detective Michael Arterburn spend their days pretending to be children chatting with adults online. Some are innocent conversations, but others are anything but that.

Jackman says, "we start doing the chat and communications and then plans were made to meet us somewhere for sex."

When the suspects showed up, the police were ready. At the end of the week, Operation Bulldog caught eight people, all with clean police records.

Jackman says, "they're typical husband, have children, sits in the pew on Sunday sitting right next to him you would never know him from Chester the molester... These are your normal, everyday guys."

In fact, one of the suspects, Austin Smith, was working as a youth counselor at the Bellewood Orphanage.

Jerry Kantrell, Bellewood Executive Director, says, "there was absolutely no indication in any of his checks that he would do anything illegal or inappropriate with a child."

Sometimes, detectives say, those are the most dangerous offenders. In the group of eight suspects, police say more than half wanted more than to just have sex with a child.

Jackman says, "they wanted to abuse the children, they were wanting to knock them out, they were wanting to use scissors, knives, rope, hold chemicals up to their nose to make them unconscious. I mean we're working on some very sick people here."

Wednesday, police held a press conference to raise awareness of the dangers lurking online and showed WHAS just how quickly a child can become a victim. Just a few seconds after Detective Jackman signed online as a 14-year-old girl, there were dozens of people asking to chat and one man even exposed himself with his webcam.

It may sound shocking, but these two detectives aren't the least bit surprised. According to a Google trends study, Louisville is rated as the most obscene city in the country.

Jackman says, "Louisville, although we're nice and low key, but online we're completely different. Night and day."

Police are warning parents that while they have taken eight of these people off the streets, there are more out there, so always be aware of what your children are doing on their computers and on their cell phones.