The U.S. Marshals Service is launching a nationwide operation targeting 500 of the country’s dangerous criminals.

Lee Messmer is the Assistant Chief of United States Marshal’s Eastern District in St. Louis.

He says they’ll be working with behavioral analysists to pinpoint the most dangerous offenders and that the project focuses on “quality, not quantity,” when it comes to arresting “the worst of the worst” during Operation Safe Child.

He says in his district alone, which covers about half the state, 47 Project Safe Childhood cases have been filed so far this year, and 85 cases were filed in 2009.

The operation follows an announcement by Attorney General Eric Holder that the Department of Justice would release its first ever National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction. The strategy also provides the first ever comprehensive threat assessment of the dangers facing children from child pornography, online enticement, child sex tourism, commercial sexual exploitation, and sexual exploitation in Indian Country, and outlines a blueprint to strengthen the fight against these crimes.

The strategy builds upon the department’s accomplishments in combating child exploitation by establishing specific, aggressive goals and priorities and increasing cooperation and collaboration at all levels of government and the private sector.

Most recently, Michael Martin was sentenced to 120 years for production, receipt and possession of child pornography on July 27, 2010. Martin molested three boys (under the age of 13) and photographed the sexual abuse. Martin was a member of a “Boy Lovers” group that exchanged child pornography and engaged in the sexual touching of minor males and the photographing of the sexual encounters.