Between March 18 and July 31, police arrested almost two dozen people as part of a statewide bust dubbed “Operation Screen Capture.” Three people – two men and one woman – were charged with sexually assaulting or attempting to sexually assault children, according to the New Jersey Office of the Attorney General.
The arrestees included Alize Tejada, 21, of Newark, who allegedly videotaped herself performing a sexual act with a “very young child,” then posted it on social media, prosecutors said.
According to prosecutors, Tejada, who is employed as a babysitter, was arrested on July 15. She has been charged with aggravated sexual assault (1st degree) and manufacturing child pornography (1st degree).
Prosecutors said that 18 people were also charged with endangering the welfare of children for possession and/or distribution of “child sexual abuse materials.” In many cases, the items included “child rape videos,” authorities said.
Attorney General Gurbir Grewal said there has been a “dramatic increase” in reports of potential threats to children from online predators during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Cyber tips to the New Jersey Regional Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force about potential threats to children online – including tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) – have increased up to 50 percent in New Jersey since the COVID emergency began in March, compared to the same time frame last year. Many cases in this operation stemmed from cyber tips from NCMEC, but others involved undercover chat investigations where perpetrators were attempting to meet children or other individuals online in order to sexually assault children.”
“As children return to virtual learning this fall, they will be spending even more time online, in many cases without any in-person teacher supervision or peer contact,” Grewal said. “This may make them even more vulnerable.”
“As we highlighted in a recent virtual town hall with the State Police and Department of Children and Families, we want everyone to know that there are resources to help children who are struggling with social isolation or who may be victims of trauma or abuse,” Grewal added.
Operation Screen Capture was led by the Division of Criminal Justice, New Jersey State Police, ICAC Task Force, U.S. Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, Burlington County Prosecutor’s Office, Camden County Prosecutor’s Office, Essex County Prosecutor’s Office, Gloucester County Prosecutor’s Office, Mercer County Prosecutor’s Office, Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office, Ocean County Prosecutor’s Office and Sussex County Prosecutor’s Office.
The New Jersey State Parole Board assisted with arrests and search warrants, prosecutors said.
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This article originally appeared on the Newark Patch