Authorities in eight states arrested 82 people in operations this week that also rescued or identified 17 children thought to be victims of exploitation, officials announced Friday.
“This three-day operation provides a snapshot of the work that the (Internet Crimes Against Children) Task Force is doing round the clock, seven days per week. Predators are real, and they walk among us,” Alan K. Flora, commander of the North Carolina task force, said.
The raids and undercover operations targeted people who had or were distributing child pornography and others who used technology and the internet to exploit children, according to the news release from the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.
Seven people were arrested after they allegedly traveled to meet and have sex with a minor, the agency said.
One of the people arrested is a youth minister, the release said. According to CNN affiliate WRAL, that man is from Cary, North Carolina.
The suspects range in age from 20 to 70.
Law enforcement officers from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia were involved in the roundup.