Predators have taken advantage of kids’ increased screen time during the coronavirus pandemic, the Maryland State police said. Potential cases of child sexual exploitation have skyrocketed, the agency added.
Through Dec. 7, state police had received 5,433 tips notifying the agency of potential sex crimes against children. That’s up from the 3,248 reported in all of 2019.
About 80% of this year’s tips come from Prince George’s County with 1,036 this year compared to 525 in 2019. Montgomery County had 862 compared to 408 last year.
“Children are often the target populations for online criminal activity,” Maryland State Police said in a news release. “Parents are encouraged to monitor their children’s use of all digital devices.”
Tips against child exploitation are also up nationwide. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children collects these tips and forwards them to local police.
The organization clocked 18.43 million cyber tips between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30. That’s up from the 11.28 million recorded over the same period last year.
Online enticement of kids has also increased during the same span. The organization has tallied 30,236 reports of online enticement this year. This is nearly double last year’s count of 15,220.
Police said online enticement is the communication with a supposed child over the internet with the goal of committing a sexual offense or abducting them. This could involve sexual pictures, meetups or conversations.
“Some child traffickers adjusted to the reluctance of buyers to meet in-person to engage in commercial sex,” Maryland State Police said. “Some traffickers are now offering options for subscription-based services in which buyers pay to access online images and videos of the child.”
To see this story by Jacob Baumgart as it originally appeared on Patch.com, click here.