HAMPTON ROADS, Va. (WAVY) — Homeland Security Cyber Crimes Investigators in Hampton Roads have another tool in their belt as they are using a robust database to help identify victims of child exploitation.

These disturbing images can make their way around the world in seconds.

That’s why investigators say it’s important to identify who’s in front of the camera, so they can figure out who’s behind it.

About 30 Homeland Security Cyber Crimes investigators spent several weeks this summer working with federal and international partners to identify kids in some pretty disturbing photos and videos that have been floating around the internet for decades.

They say investigators from at least 12 different countries were involved as well.

Through Operation Renewed Hope, investigators were able to identify more than 300 victims and have been able to get in touch with at least 28 of them.

They say they’ve made 19 domestic IDs and nine international IDs.

“We believe if we are able to locate the victim, then we are ultimately able to locate the perpetrator as well,” said Homeland Security Cyber Crimes Deputy Assistant Director Mike Prado, “but our focus has always been finding the victim and getting him or her the help that they need and deserve.”

Prado said about a dozen of them were still actively being abused.

“These images make their way around the world in milliseconds,” Prado said, “and I think that’s why this operation was so successful.

“All the images that were reviewed represented children that in many cases were depicted in some of the most egregious and heinous images that any of our law enforcement partners had ever seen.”

Agents use cutting-edge technology combined with old fashioned detective work to figure out who the victims are, and more importantly, where they are.

“That includes utilization of biometrics, utilization of audio and video enhancement and all of the other tools that we have access to in the cyber crimes unit,” Prado said.

And as technology has evolved to send these images, it’s also helping investigators find them faster.

“I think our chances for identifying more and more of these kids faster and being able to help remove them from the situation they’re in is going to be very very good,” said Unit Chief Rebecca Kudges.

“A lot of abuse takes place, sadly, by trusted adults, parents, guardians (and) caretakers,” Prado said, “so it’s really incumbent upon us as law enforcement to use any and all tools at our disposal to identify these children.”

Investigators said some of these images have been floating around the internet for decades, so in some cases, the child victims are now adults.

Prado said he hopes this operation gives those victims a renewed sense of hope, too, that they’re working to put a stop to child exploitation.

“There’s really nothing more important to those of us that work in this type of environment than rescuing a child,” Prado said, “and I think that’s what that operation really did was not only give hope to victims, but also the agents and analysts who investigate this.”

Agents said they’ve already made a number of arrests in this case, and they say more are coming.

Federal investigators said it’s important for people to have the awareness that this goes on, so it’s important for parents, teachers and school officials to play a bigger role in helping to put a stop to it too.

They say that, as for your own kids, policing technology is important, and they recommend more parental involvement when using technology.