Investigators Revisit Operation Black Veil - WBAY

Investigators Revisit Operation Black Veil

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Some of the more than 100 investigators involved in Operation Black Veil, the largest Internet predator sting in Wisconsin, gathered Friday for a debriefing.

Action 2 News was granted exclusive, unprecedented access to the investigation last month so we could show you just how fast children can become victims online.

In a matter of three days, investigators chatted with more than 500 people from all over the country.

Authorities say in many cases those people were willing to pay for sex with children, some as young as ten years old.

Sixteen people were arrested statewide, half of them in Northeast Wisconsin.

Friday's debriefing was a chance for them to figure out what went right, what didn't, and whether such an operation should be done again.

It was the first time since investigators teamed up for Operation Black Veil that they were back in the same room, talking over what happened.

It's been three weeks, yet the results still surprise them.

"When you talk about it, it's surreal. It was even surreal for some of the officers to say, really, there's that many people out there that are accessing, that are involved in this activity," Brown County Sheriff John Gossage said.

Investigators call this operation a success, not just because they took 16 people off the street who they say wanted to meet children for sex, but because it served as a wake-up call to the community.

"I think we got the point across that we're not going to tolerate this type of activity," Door County Sheriff's Investigator Jim Valley said.

We showed you how fast it all unfolded. Within minutes of investigators posting an ad to Craigslist offering up children for sex in return for money, messages overwhelmed their computers to the point they couldn't keep up, even though the ad was soon flagged and taken down.

That continued for three straight days in the middle of the week.

Sixteen of those chats ended with a man meeting not a child but investigators.

For law enforcement, making the perception of online danger a reality, showing families what is happening in our communities, made this a success.

"I've had a lot of parents come to me afterwards and say that they didn't realize it was going on and they are monitoring their children in a much greater extent than they ever have in the past," Door County Sheriff Terry Vogel said.

"It really shows you that you need to see what your children are accessing, who they're talking to, and it's important for the children to know that not everybody out there is friendly, that there is that danger out there," Sheriff Gossage said.

This was the first time authorities took an Internet Crimes Against Children task force to this level, with more than a dozen agencies participating, many for the first time.

"It went very well. We were pleased that we had some results in our area," Outagamie County Sheriff's Sergeant Mike Fitzpatrick said.

The sheer size of the operation created some communication challenges, which they will fix before the next time.

Because if anything, the operation proved they need to focus on Internet crimes.

"With the positivity out of it and knowing that we did make a difference, we plan on doing something else," Valley said.

This spring, the Brown County sheriff plans to meet with other law enforcers around the state to encourage them to coordinate a similar task force. Many of the investigators said they would like to see this kind of task force done in other parts of the state.

"I think it's important for us to stay on this and not make sure it's a one time deal," Sheriff Vogel said.

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