82 arrested in massive child exploitation sting across 8 states

(Georgia Bureau of Investigation/Facebook)

More than 80 people are facing child exploitation charges in eight states as a result of a massive operation.

According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, 82 people were arrested and 17 children were rescued or identified as victims in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia as a result of Operation Southern Impact III.

The people arrested from the four-month operation ranged from ages 20 to 70 and included occupations like non-profit employee, daycare administrator, youth group leader and former high school band director.

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GBI Special Agent Debbie Garner leads the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and says she feels children will now be safer.

Their leads often started as cyber tips.

"Approximately 500 cyber tips a month from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. Some of those were cases that we did search warrants and knock and talks on during this operation,” Garner said.

In total, law enforcement agencies arrested 31 people in Georgia, the most of any state in the sting.

Garner says they were either trading, collecting or producing child porn.

But it goes beyond that.

"There is actually a statistical correlation between those people who are collecting and viewing child pornography and those that are committing hands-on child molestation offenses,” Garner said.

A total of 171 agencies took part in the operation.