JACKSONVILLE, Ill. (WRSP) — A Jacksonville man is behind bars for allegedly sexually assaulting children. Police arrested 27-year-old Anthony Garcia of Jacksonville.
He’s accused of having sexual contact with two kids.
Jacksonville police say they’ve been tracking down Anthony Garcia for months and finally located him a few days ago.
They say this case should send a message to adults, teachers, and caretakers to always be aware of all children.
This is Jacksonville’s first Predatory criminal sexual assault case this year.
“It was pretty egregious,” said Jacksonville’s Investigative Lieutenant Doug Thompson.
Investigators believe incidents happened several times between 2016 to 2017.
They say the children were known to the perpetrator.
“Children obviously most of the time can’t protect themselves,” said Lt. Thompson. “We want to make sure that they are able to be protected by those who should be protecting them, a lot of the times that would be a parent, or a guardian, or a teacher.”
The local community, including one grandmother, Susan Fox, is distraught over the allegations.
“Very sad and sickening,” she said. “They not only have to deal with it. They have to put in in terms life, how the rest of their life will affect them for the rest of their life.”
There was a different Jacksonville child abuse report last year and another in 2015.
“A little kid should not have to deal with those kinds of things,” said one resident Mary Wardell.
Wardell said she works with kids and is always watching out for them.
“People just need to be more aware,” she said. “It breaks my heart because I have worked with children that are special needs that have been abused and it’s very disheartening.”
Police say awareness can help prevent abuse.
“We always hope that with the arrest,” said Lt. Thompson. “And with the court proceedings that justice is served that the family gets some closure.”
Anthony Garcia is expected in court Thursday morning at the Morgan County Courthouse.
This child abuse case has Sangamon County’s Children’s Advocacy Center pushing more adults to look out for kids.
They say there are red flags that everyone should be aware of.
First, they say perpetrators can be anyone.
In a child, look for comfortability, and change in behaviors. If a regularly outgoing child is withdrawn or isolated, that could be a sign of abuse.
The Advocacy Center said child abuse is reported once every ten seconds in the United States and the numbers are rising.
“It’s really important that we are watchful and aware,” said Shirley Johnson the executive director for the Advocacy Center. “Because the child may or may not come to us, depending on the level of grooming that has taken place. And then if we don’t know we can’t get services in place in a timely fashion so then we are looking at behaviors are resulting in that.”
Johnson said ongoing conversations with parents can help a child open-up more easily if they do experience any problems.
If you think a child is being abused, immediately call the police.