INTERNET

“Operation Friend Zone” Targets Puerto Rico’s Child Porn Surge

Apr 13, 2015 at 7:57 AM ET

A huge spike in child pornography cases in Puerto Rico since January has prompted federal authorities to create a special task force that last week netted 12 arrests in a single operation, including a high school teacher and a former police officer.

Puerto Rico’s child pornography problem has grown significantly in the past year, DHS says. For fiscal year 2014, authorities made a total of 36 arrests for child-pornography related crimes. There have already been 37 arrests in the first four months of 2015. “That is a fraction of the number of people in Puerto Rico who are downloading child pornography,” Melendez told Fox News.

During the creepily-named “Operation Friend Zone,” federal authorities infiltrated online peer-to-peer file-sharing networks to identify those sharing, viewing and distributing images and videos depicting children in sexually explicit situations.

“[The Department of Homeland Security] has the tools and our special agents have the expertise to identify and arrest predators despite their efforts to hide in the cyberspace,” DHS Special Agent in Charge of San Juan Angel Melendez said. Academics who study the behavior of child pornographers have spent years tracking their online behavior, down to the amount of time they share individual files. A 2013 study found almost a quarter of a million American computers had shared child pornography files, with just 1 percent of those computer responsible for disseminating most of that content.

The task force is part of Operation Predator, an initiative started in 2003 to combat child pornography. Since its inception, Operation Predator has led to more than 10,000 arrests for child-pornography related crimes, including more than 2,300 in 2014 alone. A 2006 study of the material in the possession of people arrested with child pornography found that almost 30% of child porn featured children under the age of three years old.