San Diego Union Tribune

April 28, 2004

Homeland Security continues to target child molestation


WASHINGTON As head of immigration and customs enforcement in San Diego, Mike Turner has seen it all.

But he cringes when he thinks about parents accused of sexually exploiting their children.

In the nine months since the Department of Homeland Security launched a crackdown known as Operation Predator targeting child molesters, nearly 2,400 arrests have been made, including parents who victimized their own children, officials said.

Nearly 600 arrests were in California, including 114 in San Diego County.

"It's just inconceivable to the general public that some people would subject their own children to this," Turner said. "There are hardly words to describe it, but there it is."

Authorities are investigating Internet traffickers as well as "sex tourists," U.S. residents who travel to other countries to engage in sex with minors.

Homeland Security officials are launching a national educational campaign about Operation Predator, beginning with a town hall-style meeting from 6 to 7:30 p.m. today at Meridian Elementary School, 651 S. Third St., El Cajon.

"We have initiated the largest-ever investigation into online child pornography, and we have effected the first-ever arrests of sex tourists," said Michael Garcia, assistant secretary for immigration and customs enforcement, who will attend the forum.