The coronavirus pandemic has had a number of unusual domino effects throughout society. That’s to be expected when a virus sends people home for extended lengths of time. However, one such effect that detectives couldn’t have predicted was the easier access it’s given predators to children.
Detectives in Osceola County, Florida have found just that to be true in recent months.
On Thursday, the Osceola County Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force announced it had arrest a 76-year-old man on charges of promoting or producing child pornography. The commander of the central Florida ICAC, Detective Sergeant Justin Shah, told reporters that the man, Raymond Woodrow Egan, was abusing a twelve-year-old boy to create the illicit material.
Sergeant Shah’s task force was tipped off to Egan’s activities by an anonymous source. The task force reviews all tips sent through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. This tip let to Egan’s residence, where the task force found thousands of photos and videos of children on his computer. However, this isn’t always the case, Shah told reporters.
Sometimes, the office will get as few as twenty tips per day, or as many as one hundred. However, they don’t always pan out into discoveries and arrests like in Egan’s case. It’s fortunate that police eventually stopped the man from continuing his activities. However, commentators have noted, it’s disheartening that his activities went on for as long as they did.
According to Sergeant Shah, the number of tips they’ve received during the pandemic has increased exponentially. They get tips when adults contact children online and arrange to meet up, when explicit videos are flagged and when other online activity seems suspicious.
Due to the pandemic forcing everyone indoors and greatly increasing internet traffic, it follows that children and predators alike would have more opportunities to run into each other on the internet.
“I believe that because of COVID kids are now at home and a lot more kids are doing online schooling which places them in front of a computer, an electronic device,” Sergeant Shah told reporters. “And anytime a child has a front of a computer or electronic device and they’re not monitored, they are at a potential risk for being victimized by an online predator.”
This means that now, more than ever, is a great time to talk to your kids about being safe on the internet. Not to mention, take a moment to supervise your children’s online activities and make sure their online time is spent on age-appropriate activities.