U.S. Attorney’s Office and Homeland Security Investigations Announce Effort to Combat Internet Exploitation of Children during the Pandemic
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Vermont is proud to help lead the fight against child exploitation, and law enforcement will be ever-vigilant during the pandemic, according to U.S. Attorney Christina Nolan. She stated: “Children are precious, innocent, and vulnerable, not to mention the future of Vermont. We can and should be judged by how well we protect them. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has no tolerance for victimization of our youth during this time of great challenge. We will do all we can to protect them, including aggressive prosecution of the perpetrators. We are especially grateful to Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) for its strong partnership and long tradition making investigation of crimes against children a top priority.”
HSI Boston Acting Special Agent in Charge Michael S. Shea noted, “HSI offices in the Green Mountain State and throughout New England collaborate with partners such as the United States Attorney’s Office in Vermont to bring child predators to justice on a daily basis. Our society’s current reliance on social distancing measures to combat COVID-19 can expose children to increased internet and social media content. HSI considers outreach efforts such as this part of a greater strategy to help protect children and educate parents and guardians.”
The internet has always provided a way for predators to locate and harm children. Because of COVID-19, children are home and spending more time online. Many parents are teleworking, performing the extraordinarily difficult task of balancing work with the needs of their children’s education and all the other demands of childcare. Predators have always sought child victims online, and they are seeking to take advantage of the shifting home dynamics caused by the pandemic. Children are vulnerable to a variety of forms of online predatory behavior, from sexual exploitation to financial crime. According to HSI, during the pandemic period, there has been a 150 percent increase in reported incidents in Vermont of online child exploitation and attempted exploitation. These reports include incidents of cybercrime against children and child extortion.
Vermonters should be assured that law enforcement in the Green Mountain State – at the federal, state, local, and county level – works as a team every day to combat internet crimes against children, and we are ever-vigilant during this pandemic. We thank all agencies, and in particular, HSI and the Vermont Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force for their close daily partnership to protect children in Vermont and around the world.
Please review the following resource designed to keep children, families, and the general public informed. A flyer called “Internet Safety Tips for Parents and Guardians” can be viewed at https://www.justice.gov/usao-vt/page/file/1275316/download.
To report a child exploitation crime or concern call the CyberTipline: 866-347-2423. Your call will be routed to the appropriate resources based here in Vermont.
Project Safe Childhood is a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by United States Attorney’s Offices and the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.justice.gov/psc.