FRESNO, California (KSEE) – A disturbing and seemingly pandemic-fueled trend – a spike in children being targeted by online sexual predators – is being highlighted by members of the Fresno community.
A crowd of people lined the four corners of Blackstone and Nees on Thursday to fight against child trafficking and send a message.
“Our community needs to know that this is a rampant growing problem and that it is skyrocketing.” local team leader of O.U.R. (Operation Underground Railroad) Kierstin Albergottie said.
She organized the Rise Up for Children demonstration and said the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s cyber tipline has seen a more than 90% spike in reports this year over last.
“They know these kids are home. They know they’re bored and they’re taking advantage of that. That’s what these predators do. They manipulate children. They condition these children. They use whatever they can and right now they are using this pandemic as an avenue to get to our children online,” said the Commander of the Central California Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force, Lt. Brandon Pursell.
Pursell says the Central Valley task force has been swamped. They’ve following as many tips so far this year as all of last year and, with children online more than ever parents need to be involved.
“You should have all of your children’s passwords. You should have access to their phone. Check those things periodically. Ask questions,” Pursell said.
Lisa Collins joined the peaceful demonstration hoping to give a voice to anyone impacted and help spread a message she says people need to hear.
“I have children of my own and if there’s something that I can get behind, it’s preventing horrible things from happening to kids. All types of horrible things and I think this is the most horrible thing that can happen to a child,” she said.