Internet Crimes DO NOT STOP During a Pandemic

BY BRYCE WEIR

The COVID-19 pandemic brought many facets of our society to a grinding halt. Unfortunately, the sexual exploitation of children experienced no such slow down. Detective Bryce Weir of Syracuse Police Department has collateral duties as a member of the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) and Child Exploitation Task Forces (FBI-CETF). Due in large part to Detective Weir’s hard work and desire to protect children, Syracuse Police Department is recognized for expertise in child exploitation matters and frequently provides assistance and consultation on cases with law enforcement and prosecuting agencies throughout Utah.

These partnerships provide a variety of resources to Syracuse Police Department that are critical to helping us protect children from these heinous crimes. Resources include technical expertise, subject matter experts, computer-related forensics, and training and equipment. These partnerships also allow the department to receive and share information about perpetrators on state, national, and international levels. Using these resources, we are then able to investigate potential violations into those who would prey upon children through use of the Internet and other technology. In one example, Syracuse Police Department was able to work with a local victim and track an offender into Canada. A federal arrest warrant was issued, and Canadian authorities were able to take the suspect into custody.

Through ICAC, Syracuse Police Department receives CyberTipline reports from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. These reports are most often filed by electronic service providers such as Google, Microsoft, and Facebook regarding users who unlawfully use these platforms to exploit children.

Through FBI-CET, Syracuse Police Department engages in an assortment of proactive activities and follow up investigations. This partnership also provides the opportunity to work directly with the United States Attorney’s Office to prosecute these offenders through the federal system. The FBI-CETF began operations in Utah only a few years ago, yet (unfortunately) this taskforce has made more than 500 arrests in a variety of cases involving child exploitation.

One trend these taskforces continue to see is often referred to as “sextortion.” Offenders in these circumstances will obtain a compromising photo or video of the underage victim through a variety of tactics. The offender then uses that photo or video to extort the victim out of additional compromising photos, videos, or money. The impact of these circumstances has been devastating to victims; some victims have even committed suicide.

Here are three things parents/guardians can do to help prevent your child from being a victim:

  1. Talk with your children about your expectations in their Internet use. Open the door to positive conversations so that children feel comfortable reporting to parents when they encounter online issues.
  2. Utilize available resources such as monitoring apps, router settings, and device-specific settings. For example, many routers can be set with content and time restrictions for specific devices utilized by children.
  3. Know your children’s passcodes and passwords so that devices and platforms can be checked regularly. Try to be an informed parent and know what is going on in their digital world too.

If you have reason to believe a child is being trafficked, sextorted, or otherwise sexually abused, please contact your local law enforcement agency. Protecting our children is a community responsibility, and Syracuse Police Department stands ready to provide prevention education and take enforcement action.

WHAT CAN YOU DO?

Protecting our children is a community responsibility, and Syracuse Police Department stands ready to provide prevention education and take enforcement action. IF YOU HAVE REASON TO BELIEVE A CHILD IS BEING TRAFFICKED, SEXTORTED, OR OTHERWISE SEXUALLY ABUSED, PLEASE CONTACT YOUR LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT AGENCY.

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