AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – With kids spending more time at home, online, and unsupervised, the pandemic could be the reason officials are seeing a rise in child-related cybercrime.
We spoke to agents at the Georgia Cyber Center about this dangerous trend.
“Even with this unprecedented pandemic, we have remained laser focused on bringing these criminals to light, continuing to fight for the survivors left behind,” Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, said.
Gov. Kemp unveiled a new GBI unit today, called H.E.A.T for human exploitation and trafficking. News 12 reached out to the GBI to hear about new trends during the pandemic.
They say sex trafficking trends have remained about the same, but the tips for child pornography and exploitation are through the roof.
“The stats — there’s been like a 106 percent increase in cyber tips through the national center,” Agent Charles Kicklighter said.
According to the GBI, in 2019, they got an average of 600 tips a month from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
In March of 2020, they received 1,000. And in April — another 1,300 tips.
“You know, you have more children online, longer periods of time. You know, children home alone on the internet,” Agent Kicklighter said. “This really just creates a fertile hunting ground for the guys and the ones who are looking to exploit children.”
Another theory: the people at the center for Center for Missing and Exploited Children are also working from home. Those workers can’t open sensitive files there, making them unable to screen tips before sending them to the GBI.
“With the increase, there’s only x number of people that work these,” Agent Kicklighter said.
That leaves the GBI with a backlog of tips to check out. And for parents who want to make sure their child doesn’t become one of the 10,000 cyber tips predicted this year —
“Parents need to have an open road between them and their child to communicate so their child knows if something happens, or someone approaches them online to let them know,” Agent Kicklighter said.
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