A Dawson County man was one of 82 people arrested in a multistate child exploitation sting Friday. The joint operation, named “Operation Southern Impact III,” was a coordinated effort involving hundreds of law enforcement agencies across eight states.
Chad Sitzwohl, 35, of Dawsonville, was charged with three counts of sexual exploitation of a child.
During the operation, 82 people were arrested, 31 in Georgia, and 17 minors were rescued or identified as being victims of internet crimes against children. The 82 people arrested were between 20 and 70 years old, and ranged in occupation from daycare administrator to youth group leader, former high school band director to freelance photographer, and from small business owner to non-profit employee.
The majority of the 31 Georgia arrests were centered around the possession and distribution of child pornography.
While the Georgia Bureau of Investigations is constantly pursuing all forms of child pornography, according to a GBI press release, this particular operation “targeted those seeking out and distributing the most violent sexual abuse material involving infants and toddlers.”
The press release continued to say that “the possession, distribution and production of these horrific images is not uncommon.”
In addition to the child pornography cases, seven of the 31 Georgia arrests were for allegedly “travelling for the purpose of meeting and having sex with a minor,” according to the release. “A goal of the operation was to arrest persons who communicate with children on-line and then travel to meet them for the purpose of having sex. On-line child predators visit chat rooms and websites on the internet, find children, begin conversations with them, introduce sexual content and arrange a meeting with the children for the purpose of having sex.”
The Dawson County Sheriff’s Office was one of the 77 agencies in the state of Georgia to participate in this operation.
Planning for Operation Southern Impact III, which was led by 10 Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Forces, took nearly four months and ended with a three-day sweep of search warrants, undercover operations, sex offender compliance verification visits and arrests across the Southeast.
According to the GBI, “these investigative actions resulted from both reactive cases such as cybertips received by each ICAC Task Force from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), and proactive cases such as peer-to-peer investigations and proactive, on-line undercover investigations.”