JONESBORO, Ark. (KAIT) - Following the arrests of two Craighead County men in separate child predator cases, we wanted to know how often authorities see these cases.
Connor Hagan, public affairs officer for the Federal Bureau of Investigation in Little Rock, said predators know children are home and online during these times.
“These guys are not targeting one, they’re not targeting two, they’re targeting dozens, if not hundreds of kids," Hagan said.
He says the bureau believes a lot of the “stay-at-home” and “shelter-in-place” orders have contributed to the prevalence of child predators, adding that it’s disturbing to see this crime play out over and over again.
“They know that this is a time where they can, you know, honestly prey upon children and try to exploit them for their own horrible purposes," Hagan said.
With the potential increase of kids being sexually exploited online, agents are putting their hearts and souls into finding these predators.
But, they are also asking parents to take charge and take a harder look at what their children are doing online.
“If your kids are finicky with their phones or try to hide stuff from you, get in there, and invade their privacy. If you have a laptop, maybe set the rule that that laptop goes in an open place in the house where everyone can see what you’re doing,” Hagan said. “If you have the ability to monitor some of the software and some of the apps on your kids, that’s incredible.”
Hagan believes many predators are using encrypted apps because they know it’s more of a burden for law enforcement to try to get in, identify victims, and figure out who’s being targeted.
At times, children are fearful of coming forward and admitting they made a mistake by sending an image or video.
Hagan’s message to those kids is that the FBI is not out to get you.
“If you’ve been in a situation that makes you feel uncomfortable with someone online, come forward and tell your parents, and contact the police, because we’re not coming after you," Hagan said. “We’re gonna go after the people who did that because likely, you might not be the only victim, and we want to stop that from happening to other kids and get justice for the kids who may have already been affected."
Region 8 News asked Hagan to provide numbers or statistics on the increase in cases, but these cases are ongoing or developing.
Federal investigators don’t have hard numbers right now and many of those won’t come out until a year or two.
However, he added just know it’s such a big deal that they are putting in resources to do community outreach and media interviews to inform everyone that this is hitting harder than what they’ve seen in years.
Hagan concluded by saying if someone harms a child, the FBI is coming for them.
“We’re coming after you with all available resources of the FBI, as well as our state and local partners, you know, our PD, and the Arkansas State Police," Hagan said.