Police have arrested 11 men across Perth as part of an operation into the grooming of teenagers on social media, after finding 23 of the youngsters had suffered sexual abuse.
The accused predators, aged between 18 and 41, were alleged to have used platforms like Facebook and Instagram to target 140 teenagers across Perth aged as young as 13.
Detectives from the Sex Offender Management Squad launched Operation Timing Belt in April and announced the arrests on Saturday, resulting in 79 sexual offence charges being laid.
At least 11 people have been arrested (pictured) after WA Police launched a four-month-long investigation into an alleged paedophile ring grooming teenagers through social media
The alleged predators (WA Police raid pictured) are accused of utilising popular social media apps like Facebook and Instagram to contact their victims
It is understood at least four of the accused offenders had previous convictions for child sex offences.
The operation identified 140 teenagers aged between 13 and 19 who were targeted by the group, and 23 of them were found to be victims of sexual abuse.
WA Police said some of the accused offenders would compare information about their victims and share the targets.
Acting Detective Senior Sergeant Matt Daly said the accused predators allegedly contacted the teenagers through social media to ‘ultimately engage in sexual contact with them’.
‘The majority of offences are non-physical communication via popular social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, and via mobile phones,’ he explained.
WA Police also confiscated computer equipment in connection with the alleged abuse as part of the series of raids.
WA Police (pictured) seized computer equipment as evidence alongside the arrests
‘Mobile phones and the ongoing rise of social media platforms provides offenders with new ways to reach out to youths in order to commit crimes and we’re working hard to crackdown on this behaviour,’ Snr Sgt Daly said.
In all, 18 offenders had been charged as part of Operation Timing Belt, with 135 charges laid for non-sexual offences including drug, trespass and animal cruelty offences.
State Crime Assistant Commissioner Brad Royce said Timing Belt showed that parents and children must be vigilant in terms of cyber safety.
‘They come in from likes and friends from other people and they get accepted and then they start grooming.
‘You wouldn’t let a stranger into your home if they randomly knocked on the front door – likewise, you shouldn’t allow someone to access your online profile unless you know them,’ Mr Royce said.
WA Police are continuing the investigation under Operation Timing Belt.
At least 18 accused people have been arrested and charged as part of the police operation