COLUMBIA, Md. — A two-month initiative targeting offenders of child sexual exploitation yielded 58 arrests by Maryland’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, including 17 arrests made by Maryland State Police.
The mass arrests were part of the larger “Operation Broken Heart,” conducted throughout April and May, in which 320 investigations were initiated, with 110 search warrants executed along with 58 arrests, and nearly 1,300 people informed through public outreach sessions, Maryland State Police said. The operation was part of a national initiative that reached more than 201,000 youths and adults during more than 2,150 presentations throughout the country.
"If you look at the arrests that were made here, especially state police, it connected everywhere from Western Maryland to the Eastern Shore, so again, it's something without boundaries, and we gather this information in many different ways," said Ron Snyder, Maryland State Police.
Saul Hansen of Elkton is one of the 58 people charged in the crackdown. Hansen told detectives his Google account was hacked after they found 21 files of child pornography, including some videos that showed young girls estimated to be 5 of 6 years old performing oral sex with adult men.
"These videos were obviously produced somewhere. These children were violated in a very unbelievably, horrific way and by downloading and distributing these materials; they're perpetuating the cycle," said Snyder.
The Maryland ICAC Task Force’s main goal is to protect children from computer-facilitated sexual exploitation, the State Police said. It coordinates efforts of cooperating law enforcement agencies and prosecutors to best utilize resources to combat these crimes against the state’s most vulnerable residents. The task force also prioritizes community awareness to help prevent or make Marylanders aware of such potential crimes.