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Child Sex Crackdown Nets 1,000+

A wide-ranging investigation into child pornography and sexual abuse of children has netted more than 1,000 arrests worldwide since it began in July, authorities said Friday.

The crackdown, dubbed "Operation Predator," has resulted in arrests in nearly every state and most major U.S. cities, said Michael J. Garcia, director of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

Arrests have included U.S. citizens who traveled abroad to have sex with minors, people charged with molesting mentally impaired children and people who smuggled foreign children into the United States to work as prostitutes, Garcia said.

About 400 of the arrests were on charges of manufacturing or distributing child pornography on the Internet.

"The goal of Predator is to get these people off the streets and we're doing that," Garcia told reporters.

Operation Predator was launched on July 9 and also involves law enforcement officials from the Postal Inspection Service and the Justice Department.

Many of the arrests resulted from citizen tips, with a large portion also coming through investigation of Internet usage, Garcia said.

In addition, ICE agents apprehended a number of suspects by checking lists of known sex offenders against its files of illegal immigrants.

Garcia said that ICE also is launching a public awareness campaign about the child sex tourism industry, estimated to victimize two million children around the world.

By Curt Anderson