NJ Parents, Beware: Child Predators Use 19 'Apps' To Get Children
Authorities just made a bunch of arrests of alleged child predators who used a slew of apps that are well known to parents and children.
State officials want parents to know: Possible sex predators are using apps to lure children across New Jersey.
Following the recent arrests of 24 alleged child predators, the Office of Attorney General alerted New Jerseyans this past week that potentially dangerous people are using as many as 19 apps to lure children to have sex.
The New Jersey Regional Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, which is led by the New Jersey State Police, and the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office, recently arrested 24 people who allegedly used a slew of apps that are well known to parents and children.
Arrests also have been made involving the gaming apps Fortnite, Minecraft, and Discord, according to the Office of Attorney General.
Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal urged parents to familiarize themselves with these apps and warn their children about sharing information with strangers.
"It is a frightening reality that sexual predators are lurking on social media, ready to strike if they find a child who is vulnerable," said Grewal. "To counter that threat, we are working collaboratively and aggressively across all levels of law enforcement to apprehend these sex offenders.
"We want child predators to know that we are on social media too – and the child they target may be the undercover officer who puts them in handcuffs."
Col. Patrick Callahan of the New Jersey State Police said predators work behind closed doors "through great lengths to avoid detection online," frequenting social media sites with the sole purpose of targeting unsuspecting children. He said parents should closely monitor their child's online activity.
"Our troopers and partners on the ICAC Task Force are unfazed by the outward appearances of sex offenders and will continue to turn the tables on predators by luring them out of hiding and bringing them to justice," he said.
Some of the apps have an 18+ age requirement, according to nj.com, even though users are able to enter a birthdate that's older or younger. With Tinder, up until June 2016, a user only had to be 13 to sign up, but the company changed its requirement after being criticized by parents, according to nj.com and parentinfo.com.
Tumblr, Instagram and Snapchat also have a minimum age requirement of 13, according to nj.com. Some apps, however, don't have a guaranteed way of keeping children off the app.
Last week's arrest of 24 alleged child predators from across New Jersey – including a police officer who headed a county SWAT team – was part of a statewide bust known as "Operation Open House."
The multi-agency undercover operation targeted men who allegedly were using social media in an attempt to lure underage girls and boys for sexual activity, according to a release from the Office of Attorney General.
The underage "children" were, in fact, undercover officers, according to authorities. Most of the defendants were arrested when they arrived at a house in Toms River, where they allegedly expected to find their victim home alone.
One of them was Richard C. Conte, 47, who was busted earlier this month in Toms River as the result of the undercover operation, police said. Conte, who was off-duty at the time, believed he was going to be meeting a 15-year-old girl, police said.
"This investigation is one of countless examples highlighting the outstanding proactive cyber enforcement' capabilities developed through the partnership between the state and the Ocean County Prosecutor's Office," Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph D. Coronato said.
"We thank the Attorney General's Office and the New Jersey State Police for their constant investigative support aimed at apprehending sexual predators targeting our youth," he said. "When law enforcement works together seamlessly, as we did in this investigative effort, the safety of all citizens increases tenfold."