Operation Black Veil Takes an Emotional Toll on Investigators - WBAY

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Operation Black Veil Takes an Emotional Toll on Investigators

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For the last two days, we've been giving you an exclusive, inside look at Operation Black Veil, a three-day undercover sting to find Internet child predators in Wisconsin.

Sixteen people have been arrested so far, including eight from Brown, Outagamie, and Shawano counties. Seven of those men have been charged. Authorities say they thought they were meeting children for sex.

Sarah Thomsen was granted unprecedented access to investigators throughout the sting.

During this investigation, we saw a lot of posts and pictures no one wants to see, and that was just looking over the shoulders of investigators every few minutes.

They not only saw each message and image, they had to pretend like it didn't bother them.

Despite that, they are compelled to be part of these investigations.

On a Tuesday morning, when most people are at work and kids are in school, investigators in Door County posted an ad on Craigslist that would make many of us gasp.

Yet for three days we watched replies pour in.

"She wants naked pictures," an investigator says.

People ask for and send X-rated pictures within minutes of initiating chats.

That's all investigators see, eight long hours a day.

"It gets to the point where I get a little uncomfortable," Sergeant Carl Waterstreet from the Door County Sheriff's Department remarks.

Nearly all of them have children of their own -- some the same age as the kids they're portraying in this operation.

It is not an easy assignment.

"When I first became an investigator, they asked a list of things we wanted to do and didn't want to do The one thing I put on my 'not to do' was work crimes with children," Sergeant Chris Amraen, Brown County Sheriff's Department, said, "because it bothers me the most."

Yet they're all here because of children -- and their promise to protect even the youngest of victims.

"It's something that's just looking online, trying to make that contact, trying to figure out a way to make that sexual gratification. And they think that's OK, and that's the frustrating thing to us," Brown County Sheriff's Captain Dave Konrath said.

Investigators work from sun up to sun down, but it's when the clock ticks toward midnight they say chats become increasingly disturbing.

"I've found more so at night, they get more aggressive with their posting and the pictures are more graphic, but they're terrible no matter where you look at it," Waterstreet said.

Door County Sheriff Terry Vogel knows this is not an average investigation.

"And I do worry about the mental health of the officers. And we do take steps afterwards to have either debriefings or mental health meetings to make sure my officers are OK on this," Sheriff Vogel said.

Despite that, many investigators actually volunteered to be part of Operation Black Veil, feeling it truly can make a difference.

"It's always good to know we can at least try to do something to help protect the children," said Deputy Troy Montevideo from the Door County Sheriff's Department.

Wednesday on Action 2 News at Five, our final report on Operation Black Veil and perhaps the most important one: What you as parents and families can do to protect your children from online dangers.

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