GBI investigation targets 98 people linked to Internet child pornography

tstevens@ledger-enquirer.comApril 10, 2013 

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Columbus Police Department, and 45 other federal, state and local law enforcement agencies have joined together to serve search warrants for 98 people suspected of distributing child pornography, according to a GBI press release.

The effort, named "Operation Guarding Innocence," is one of the largest of its kind according to the press release. It ran from January to March and centered on the ability to find suspects who were distributing child porn through the Internet. About 50 teams consisting of 47 federal, state and local agencies participated in the effort, including the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. After three months of investigation, 98 people in 37 counties will be served with search warrants.

The specific counties in which the warrants will be served was not mentioned in the release.

GBI representative John Bankhead said search warrants in Columbus may not be served Wednesday. The operation will probably take place over the next several days, he said.

The ICAC Task Force was created by the U.S. Department of Justice. It's Georgia division is housed within the GBI. It was created to respond to an increased number of minors who were using the Internet and looking up pornography. In addition, it aims to address the number of predators online who may have unsupervised access to children, according to the release.

More than 900 arrests have been made in Georgia since the ICAC Task Force was created in 2002, according to the report — 109 in 2008, 164 in 2009, 162 in 2010 and 173 in 2011. There were 163 arrests made in 2012.

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