'Massive' online child porn sweep hits Silicon Valley

Several arrests were made after morning raids targeted 20 local addresses

Northern California's largest-ever child porn sweep struck the heart of Silicon Valley on Thursday when law enforcement agencies executed 20 search warrants at addresses across the region.

"Operation Chickenhawk" is being headed by the Silicon Valley Internet Crimes Against Children task force and brings together local police departments, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Postal Service and Department of Homeland Security.

"We've made several arrests," said Sgt. Jason Dwyer of the San Jose Police Department. "We are still continuing with the operation. Most of the homes have been hit and detectives are going through and searching for evidence."

More arrests could follow depending on what those investigations find, he said. The San Jose Police Department expects to provide more details on the operation later Thursday.

Officers from San Jose, Mountain View, Los Gatos and Santa Cruz are among those involved in the sweep, which targets a cluster of suspected child pornography in Santa Clara County. The county runs from Palo Alto in the north and encompasses the majority of Silicon Valley and San Jose.

The operation is making use of a mobile forensics lab, which allows investigators to begin searching for evidence on hard drives seized from a suspect's home. They are typically looking for hardcore images of pre-pubescent children.

Without the mobile forensics lab, it could take months for the same results to be received from the Department of Justice's laboratory, according to Sgt. Dwyer.

The Santa Clara County operation follows several recent sweeps that have led to more than 40 arrests in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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