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Operation Broken Heart: Stopping Child Predators

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Operation Broken Heart in Texas

Law enforcement agencies across the nation are engaged in a continuing effort to stop the harm caused by child predators. One of the most successful operations that has been conducted in the name of this effort is Operation Broken Heart. This widespread operation has been very successful in catching child predators in the act of committing felonies.

Technologies like social media and online gaming have provided potential child predators with additional avenues to target minors. As a response, law enforcement agencies have been engaging in sting operations that use these technologies to catch predators before they can do any harm.

What Is Operation Broken Heart?

Operation Broken Heart is a specialized operation that coordinates the efforts of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies. It represents a joint strategy between these agencies to target, arrest and prosecute child predators who attempt to use the Internet to contact potential victims.

Operation Broken Heart III took place in 2016. It was a nationwide effort that led to 126 arrests of suspected child predators in Texas. The majority of the arrests were the results of sting operations conducted by law enforcement. In these stings, law enforcement officers often pose as minors in online chat forums or on gaming services. When adults attempt to arrange meetings with these minors or exchange illegal images, law enforcement can obtain a warrant for their arrest.

How The Operation Works

Operation Broken Heart targets child predators who use online communications and digital technology to lure in unsuspecting victims. For this reason, law enforcement officers may use undercover agents to pose as minors and communicate with suspected predators.

Some law enforcement sources claim that the undercover agents do not ever have to bring up the subject of explicit photos or meetings for sexual purposes because the predators initiate these discussions.

For example, in a sting operation, an undercover agent may enter a chat room and behave as a minor (for example, a teenager) typically would. If the agent receives a message from an adult who requests a private meeting for explicit purposes or who attempts to solicit or exchange explicit images, law enforcement has justification to issue an arrest warrant.

When that happens, they may have the undercover agent obtain address information from the adult or agree to a meeting in person. When they have the information, they can arrest the suspected predator at his or her home. If they arrange a meeting, they can have officers on standby at the meeting location to make the arrest.

The Charges

The people arrested in this case come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Of the 128 arrests made in Operation Broken Heart III in 2016, the suspected predators made up a group that varied in ages, occupations and lifestyles.

In the Houston area, those arrested included a pizza delivery driver, a security guard and a elementary school principal.

Of those charged, the most common charges filed included:

Legal Penalties

The legal penalties that can be applied in the cases of the offenders arrested as part of Operation Broken Heart may vary widely. The penalties can vary based on the charges, the circumstances of the arrests, mitigating factors and the previous arrest records of those charged.

However, any conviction involving an offense against minors in Texas is very serious. Some possible penalties include:

  • Online solicitation of a minor: This is a felony of the third degree, punishable by two to 10 years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Soliciting a minor under the age of 14 upgrades this to a second degree felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
  • Possession or promotion of child pornography: This is a felony of the second degree, punishable by two to 20 years in state prison and a fine of up to $10,000. A person who is convicted of this offense for a second time may have their charge upgraded to a felony of the first degree, punishable by five to 99 years in prison or life in prison.
  • Continuous sexual abuse of a child: This is a felony of the first degree, punishable by a term of imprisonment not to exceed 99 years and not to be less than 25 years.

It should be noted that a conviction for any of these offenses has the potential for a mandatory order of registration on the Texas sex offender registry. Registration on this list may last for several years after parole is granted or for the duration of the offender’s life.

Registered offenders must have their address and personal information stored in a database which is available for public viewing. They must also report any changes in address, employment or location to their supervising officer, as well as make frequent visits to this officer to monitor their employment status, drug use or other conditions of parole.

Do you know someone that has been charged with a crime against a child? Time is vitally important if you want to get them the legal help they’ll need. Contact attorney Brett Podolsky with an online form or call his office at 713-227-0087.

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