Fifteen people have been arrested, accused of traveling to meet a minor for sex.
The Pinellas County Sheriff's office conducted a sting operation called Operation Wayfarer. It was an operation that started Jan. 20 and ended Jan. 24.
Investigators posed as minors online. According to the department, the suspects scheduled to meet the "minors" in order to have a sexual encounter with them. Detectives said the suspects used social media, chat rooms and online classified ads.
"These people need to go to jail. They need to stay there for a long time, and we gotta get them off the streets," Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said.
Sheriff Gualtieri said the suspects' ages ranged from 20 to 47. Their charges vary, but include traveling to meet a minor, online solicitation of a minor and use of computer services prohibited.
"These people are preying on kids in the community. It's terrible," Sheriff Gualtieri said.
The sheriff said parents need to continue to monitor what their children are doing online.
"When the kids don't like the fact that you're checking their email, checking their text messages, checking their instant messenger, checking their Instagram, checking all their websites that they're using... That's too bad," Sheriff Gualtieri said.
Terrell Newsome, 22, was arrested during Operation Wayfarer. His grandparents said he has never been arrested for a sex crime and is not like this. Newsome was charged with traveling to meet a minor.
"It's very shocking. Like I said, I think he thought he was talking to somebody older," his grandparent said.