Lexington police on Friday said 13 people had been charged after a six-week undercover investigation led by a newly created Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Four juveniles also were charged.
Lexington police Chief Ronnie Bastin said the task force was notified that people were sharing sexually related material through electronics. The department assigned officers from different areas, including traffic. Kentucky State Police and Fayette County Public Schools assisted.
Bastin said sex crimes are prevalent enough that additional manpower will be added for a second phase of the investigation.
Commander Gregg Jones of the Bureau of Investigation said police rescued children and thwarted sexual transactions. Police also confiscated 52 pieces of electronics and more than 1,000 media-related materials that contained child pornography, he said.
Jones did not discuss details of the cases.
The investigations covered three categories:
■ Sharing and distributing;
■ Online solicitation;
■ Sexting and cyberbullying.
During the investigation, police found that elementary students were sexting, and middle- and high-school students were using sexual pictures to bully, shame or intimidate their peers. Investigators noted that those involved with electronic media are getting younger. It is illegal for children to send sexual photos or video of their peers through social media.
Jones said all of the crimes spark concern, but he said he also wanted to "make it clear that if you are a minor and you send nude photos of yourself, it's a crime." Having naked photos of yourself, friends or an underage person is a crime, he said.
"It may not seem like a big deal now, but making a bad choice today could ruin your life," Jones said. "Those photos don't go away; they're out there forever."