New Jersey authorities have arrested 79 alleged sex offenders, among them a youth minister and a police officer, following a nine-month investigation that targeted those using social media to prey on children.
The initiative, "Operation Safety Net," saw arrests for various sex offenses, including sexual assault, possession of thousands of files of child pornography, and sending lewd photos to children. Those arrested range in age from 14 to 75. Among them are:
A Trenton police officer, 52-year-old Paul Marinelli of South Brunswick, who is charged with possession of child pornography.
Three Cumberland County brothers in their 20s — Kody, Alexander, and Kyle Knotts — who allegedly amassed a total of 5,000 files of child pornography.
Michael DeBlock, 22, of Hopatcong, a youth minister, who allegedly exchanged sexual photos and texts with a 14-year-old girl. He was arrested on Oct. 10.
Authorities also arrested 10 men outside the state on charges of trying to traffic children from New Jersey for sex.
Officials pinned part of the investigation's success on two new tools: a canine that can detect hidden electronics and a mobile forensics van used to more safely search devices. Police in Delaware County also recently employed an electronics-sniffing dog for child-pornography investigations.
"We're even better equipped to uncover the evidence that will keep these offenders behind bars, where they cannot threaten or further exploit vulnerable victims," Attorney General Christopher Porrino said in a news release. "These cases highlight the fact that viewing child pornography is part of a continuum of deviant behavior that often leads to or drives other sex crimes."