Federal authorities announced the arrest Tuesday of thousands of suspected online child sex offenders in a nationwide bust.
Over 2,300 suspected predators were nabbed in the sting, code-named Operation Broken Heart, during March, April, and May, the Department of Justice said in a statement.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions lamented the “shocking and very sad” number of alleged abusers caught by just one operation.
“No child should ever have to endure sexual abuse,” Sessions said. “And yet, in recent years, certain forms of modern technology have facilitated the spread of child pornography and created greater incentives for its production.”
The bust was conducted by dozens of task forces spanning 50 states and employing the help of thousands of federal and local law-enforcement agencies. Although the operation nabbed only a few thousand suspects, investigators looked into a full 25,200 sexual-abuse complaints.
Most victims of online abuse are under the age of 13, and many are even coerced into livestreaming their own abuse, a disturbing May study by the United Kingdom’s Internet Watch Foundation reported. The IWF has also found that the number of child-sexual-abuse websites has ticked up 37 percent since 2016.
“Any would-be criminal should be warned: This Department will remain relentless in hunting down those who victimize our children,” the attorney general said.