Operation Safe Summer: protecting children from predators

(Source: WGCL)

The FBI along with state and local agencies urge parents to keep a close eye on who children are talking to online and in person this summer.

As part of "Operation Safe Summer," nearly 40 agencies in metro Atlanta identified or located 149 missing or exploited children in May. They made several arrests. The children involved range in age from 3 to 17.

"Children are vulnerable to physically running away and then succumbing to the sex trade, but even those who don't physically run away are vulnerable through social media," says FBI Assistant Special Agent In Charge Matthew Alcoke.

He said it's critical for trusted adults to play an active role in children's lives, especially children who might be inclined to run away for whatever reason.

"It only takes one opportunity for a child predator to sneak in and message with a child enough to convince that child it would be a good idea to come meet them,” said Alcoke.

Alexa Taylor knows all too well about the dark side of the internet.

When she was 12, she said she was contacted on social media by a predator who picked her up at home when her parents were at work.

"I was bored, I was 12, my parents hadn't really had any talks with me about the dangers of the internet," said Taylor.

"It starts at home, it starts with teaching your kids and being knowledgeable," she said. "It's so important to monitor these devices your children use."

She was later sex trafficked at the age of 17. Now as a 26-year-old survivor, she is sharing her story and has written two books about her experiences.

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