SACRAMENTO – An operation to locate alleged child predators leads to over 20 arrests. The Sacramento Valley Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) tracked down online tips throughout the region.
Authorities say notable arrests include Jonathan Kasten, 35, and Brian Schemltz, 54.
Kasten is accused of not only having child pornography but production and manufacturing content, while Smeltz reportedly contacted who he believed were children but were instead detectives. It is believed he may have contacted other minors.
During a press conference, the multi-agency operation revealed the graphic images led to wellness aid for investigators.
"We need to be clear, [these] aren't abstract images," said Morgan Gire, district attorney of Placer County. "These are photos and videos of children being victimized."
It is graphic what people are doing to kids, Sacramento Sheriff Jim Cooper noted.
"There are groups out there – networks that trade child pornography," he said.
In Placer County, deputies arrested two men including Paul Hughes, 40.
A spokesperson confirms he's a coach for the Sierra Foothills Little League Baseball.
He is accused of being in possession of child pornography and taking pictures of children while secretly recording women in the restroom.
CBS13 reached out to the association but did not receive a response.
"That's disgusting that's actually happening in my little sleepy town," said Theresa Hart, a Colfax resident. "We don't get nothing like that happening here."
The ICAC operation reveals the web is often a gateway for child predators with how-to's on grooming children.
Detectives are seeing an uptick in tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Authorities say out of the more than 40 million tips, about half come from Meta. But there are concerns about what will happen once the tech giant begins full messaging encryption.
The social media company did respond to our request for a comment.
"Law enforcement is the only voice in the room," Cooper said. "Unfortunately, they're more concerned about encryption and privacy."
So, how can you protect your child?
Online safety experts say the first of line of defense starts at home.
"I think law enforcement is going to have a lot of challenges with new technology that comes out," said Scott Driscoll, owner of Internet Safety Concepts.
- Open communication should start before handing over devices.
- Besides knowing which platforms or games your child is on, don't forget to ask about online friends.
- Lastly, consider a contract of rules and expectations with your kids.
"I like to plan for safety before we need safety," Driscoll said.