While the pandemic continues and lockdown efforts to contain the spread of the virus remain in place in much of the country, another problem is bubbling beneath the surface: cyber crimes against children. Detectives across the US have noted that crimes against kids have increased in frequency during the lengthy lockdown period.
In New Hampshire alone, the crime rate has increased dramatically since lockdown began. Detective Sergeant John Peracchi told reporters, “I think in the peak we had about 180 [tips per day]. So why the increase? Think about it. Everybody’s home, behind a computer now. Not just kids, but the adults. That guy who may have worked a 9 to 5 job and had to wait until 5 o’clock to log in, well, guess what? He can log in all day long now.”
Increased access to the internet and less people looking over their shoulders may have played a role in the increases in numbers. People with office jobs who normally work on a computer all day long are working from home right now.
Working from home, with no one monitoring their activity, and with no boss over the shoulder, might have allowed the bad apples who would already target children to have more time to pursue their criminal habit.
On the other side of the coin, kids have been home from school and unable to go to many places. Instead, they’ve been on their laptops and tablets. While their parents are busy working to keep things together during a pandemic, the kids have been largely unsupervised and left to their own online devices. This is a recipe for disaster, according to detectives.
Detectives who combat crimes against children are steeled for how intense their job is. The images they uncover, and take criminals to court over, can be extremely unsettling, Peracchi told reporters. “It’s some of the most horrific stuff you could ever imagine,” he said of the kinds of images they often find.
Moreover, detectives estimate that roughly three in four people arrested for the possession of such images have touched a child inappropriately. As such, their arrests do more than just remove the demand for illicit images, they may also directly prevent abuse in the immediate future.
For parents and guardians, it’s important to teach kids about proper online safety. Moreover, make sure you take a moment to supervise your children’s online activity and make sure they’re browsing age-appropriate content and not talking to people they don’t know.