LONG BEACH, Calif. – More than three dozen men have been arrested in a sting operation that targeted adults who use Internet chat rooms to try to have sex with minors, police announced Sunday.
The 38 men, ranging in age from 22 to 50, were caught during the three-day undercover operation. Police worked with the watchdog group Perverted Justice and the NBC newsmagazine "Dateline" to set up the sting as part of the show's ongoing "To Catch a Predator" series.
In the operation, volunteers from Perverted Justice posed as juveniles on the Internet. Police said the suspects contacted the decoys in online chat rooms over the last two months and arranged to meet them in person, often after sending sexually explicit messages.
The men began showing up at a Long Beach house on Friday expecting to have sex with minors, but were instead confronted by a TV camera crew, police said. Officers arrested the men as they tried to leave the residence, and most surrendered without incident.
The suspects were booked on suspicion of attempted lewd sexual acts with a minor under the age of 14. They were held at the Long Beach Jail in lieu of $100,000 bail and were scheduled to be arraigned Monday and Tuesday, said police Sgt. Lee DeBrabander.
Among the suspects arrested were an electrical engineer, a pizza deliveryman and a warehouse manager. They were all from Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, Ventura and San Diego counties.
DeBrabander said he hopes the publicity of the sting will deter others from preying on children.
"We want everyone to know that Long Beach police are enforcing these laws and if you're an adult trying to have sex with a child ... you will go to jail," the sergeant said.