Raids across 37 counties target child predators

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DEKALB COUNTY, Ga. - In the culmination of a months-long investigation, law enforcement officials fanned out across the state in search of child predators Wednesday.

Channel 2’s Ryan Young was with police as they served warrants in Operation Guarding Innocence. It’s the largest effort to catch child sex predators in the state’s history. The undertaking began before dawn, and two hours into the day, DeKalb County police officers were arresting Lithonia resident David Walker, who is facing charges related to child pornography.

“We all have children. We are all trying to keep them safe, especially with social media, children on the computer a lot more. (It’s) very important we stay on top of this,” DeKalb County police Lt. Jerry Lewis said.

It’s been a three-month investigation involving 47 federal, state, and local law enforcement and criminal justice agencies. The Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crimes against Children Task Force is seeking 98 suspects accused of possessing child porn.

“We go after the worst of the worst. We are talking about video with children being raped and abused,” GBI Director Vernon Keenan said.

The GBI is tracking all of Wednesday’s activity at its headquarters. Agents are watching and updating maps outlining developments. The crackdown is expected to continue for the next few hours.

“We have 50 arrest teams actively searching,” Keenan said.

Raids are taking place in 37 counties.

Channel 2’s Kerry Kavanaugh was with authorities serving warrants in Gwinnett County. She spotted a small child sitting on the front porch of a Norcross home as investigators searched for the source of Internet child pornography.

"Any time there's a child involved, we're going to take extra precaution,” said GBI special agent Sara Thomas.
 
Thomas told Kavanaugh the GBI and Gwinnett County Sheriff's Department came to Zachary Road after tracing pornographic images of children to the home's Internet Protocol address. Inside, investigators encountered a maze of makeshift apartments.
 
"We found at least 12 people in the residence. There were numerous kids, numerous individuals that didn't speak English," she said.
 
Authorities also found eight computers.
 
Agents arrived at the home around 7:30 a.m. and searched for information for more than 10 hours gathering "every single camera, every single phone, every single camera, SD card," Thomas said.
 
They're also making sure what investigators suspect is being viewed inside the home wasn't created there.
 
"We want to make sure that none of the children are being molested or have been a victim," Thomas said.
 
At last check, the GBI was not able to speak with the owner of the home because, they said, he is traveling. No arrests were made at the home by the time this story was published, but the investigation continues.