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Child sex abuse: Operation Sunflower highlights new efforts to get predators

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Law enforcement officials at the federal, state, and local levels have been turning to what they call “forensic technology” to track and identify both predators and their victims. The effort to focus on minute details of photos or videos and rely on global databases to establish trends or locations has yielded more arrests. The number of child predators arrested by ICE last year totaled 1,655, a record number for the agency and an 81 percent increase from 2010.

In Operation Sunflower, whose results were announced Thursday, the majority of the victims were female, and most victims were between 13 and 15 years old. However, five victims were under the age of 3, and 30 were between 4 and 9 years old.

The majority of suspects were arrested in the United States, but 23 were arrested abroad. The states with the most arrests were California (37), Texas (29), New York (19), Florida (17), and New Mexico (11). States with destination theme parks and family-friendly attractions tend to be targets of predators because they usher through a high volume of children each year.

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