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VALDOSTA — Authorities have arrested a Valdosta State University dean as part of an undercover investigation targeting online child predators. According to the GBI, 44-year-old university dean Keith Walters was arrested along with 13 other suspects during the four day operation known as “Operation Broken Arrow.”
The Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit, the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office, and the Southern Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office participated in the operation that led to 14 people being arrested over a four-day period beginning Thursday, Feb. 6.
Those arrested were charged with O.C.G.A. 16-12-100.2, Computer or Electronic Pornography and Child Exploitation Prevention Act of 2007 and/or O.C.G.A 16-5-46, Trafficking of Persons for Labor or Sexual Servitude. Additional charges and arrests may be forthcoming.
“Operation Broken Arrow” was a four-day proactive effort centered in Valdosta. The arrestees, ranging in age from 24 to 57, traveled from areas around South Georgia with the intent to meet a child for sex. According to the GBI, every individual arrested during the operation believed they were going to a location to meet with a child and engage in prearranged sex acts.
The Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force had previously received information from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children on at least one person who was arrested during Operation Broken Arrow. That same person had been previously arrested on peeping tom charges.
Two people were arrested in possession of a firearm and two people were arrested in possession of illegal narcotics. At least two other suspects were investigated for sex related crimes in the past. A total of 19 mobile devices and several additional electronic devices were seized as evidence during the operation.
The goal of “Operation Broken Arrow” was to arrest people who communicate with children online and then travel to meet them for the purpose of having sex.
Additionally, the operation targeted those that are willing to exploit children by purchasing sex with a minor. Online child predators visit chat rooms and websites on the internet, find children, begin conversations with them, introduce sexual content and arrange a meeting with the children for the purpose of having sex. The children these predators target are both boys and girls. Since 2014, the task force has arrested more than 150 people in similar operations.
Over the course of the operation, investigators had more than 120 exchanges with people on various social media or internet platforms. During many of these exchanges, the subjects directed conversations towards sex with people they believed to be minors. Over 40 cases were established that met the threshold for arrest.
In some of these cases, the suspect introduced obscene or lude content, often exposing the minor to pornography or requesting the child take nude or pornographic images for them. About half of the exchanges involved websites used for dating, socializing, or even websites used for classified advertisements.
Although some websites promote themselves as being for “adults-only” it is not uncommon for law enforcement to work cases in which children access these sites, establish profiles claiming to be older, and then find themselves vulnerable to victimization, harassment, blackmail, or assault.
Several suspects were identified as communicating simultaneously with multiple investigators posing as minors. Such activity confirms what investigators uncover conducting these types of investigations — that many predators specifically seek out minors on such websites to groom them as potential victims for sexual contact.