MARIETTA, Ga. -- Marietta police said 15 people have been arrested as part of an online child predator investigation.
The investigation targeted people who communicated with children online and then traveled to meet them to have sexual interactions. The operation also targeted those who were willing to exploit children by purchasing sex with a minor. Both boys and girls were targeted, police said.
Most of the suspects had metro Atlanta addresses, but a few were from as far away as Oregon.
"(They) are willing to get in a car for the sole purpose of meeting that child with the intention of having sex," said Marietta Police officer Chuck McPhilamy.
- Terry Crawford, 58-year-old male from Pine Mountain, Ga.
- Johnny Crittenden, 57-year-old male from Jonesboro, Ga.
- Jose Barrera, 20-year-old male from Kennesaw, Ga.
- Justin Jones, 42 year old male from Marietta, Ga.
- Nikolas Sims, 23 year old male from Conyers, Ga.
- Stephen Cook, 59 year old male from Grayson, Ga.
- James Lumpkin, 46 year old male from Marietta, Ga.
- Christopher Braden, 38 year old male from Jasper, Ala.
- Noe Verdugo, 36 year old male from Atlanta, Ga.
- James Conner, 45 year old male from Monroe, Ga.
- Thornton Barrow, 54 year old male from Central, S.C.
- David Butterworth, 40 year old male from Flowery Branch, Ga.
- Justin Clark, 31 year old male from Hines, Ore.
- Mitchell Walters, 28 year old male from Cumming, Ga.
- Keith Grogan, 44 year old male from Graycourt, S.C.
Warrants showed that in most cases, the men posted ads on sites like Craiglist. Obscene photos and graphic conversations escalated to the adults agreeing to meet and have sex with underage children. Those meetings ended in handcuffs every time.
But this is not the first time such a raid ended in so many arrests. Back in April, Marietta Police also took part in "Operation Spring Cleaning," which was centered in Gwinnett County and resulted in 23 arrests:
11Alive's Chris Hopper spoke with investigators who had a warning for parents: watch your child closely or they could be a victim.
"Do you know what they are doing," McPhilamacy asked. That's the question police want parents to be able to answer. "I could be sitting at the dinner table with my parent and they may or may not actually know who I'm talking to."
On Thursday night, 11Alive spoke to some of the neighbors who live near some of the suspects in the sting.
"Obviously, I want to have a safe neighborhood," said Travis Cain. "This is part of the society we live. We have to find ways to deal with it and we have to overcome it the best we can."
Marietta City Schools and Police will be holding a joint press conference Friday afternoon where they're planning to talk about how they will work together to combat a growing problem.
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