NEW BEDFORD (MA)
South Coast Today
October 24, 2020
By Dustin Racioppi
Trenton NJ – As New Jersey started locking down in the COVID-19 pandemic, a convicted rapist and registered sex offender from Oklahoma named Aaron Craiger stepped off a Greyhound bus in Atlantic City. He had a phone with child sexual abuse materials on it and graphic plans to carry out his sexual fantasies with two 11- and 12-year-old girls.
Instead, Craiger was met on March 18 by undercover law enforcement in a four-month sting that led to the arrests of 19 men, one woman and one juvenile male accused of sexually exploiting children online.
While the world has battled the health and economic effects of the coronavirus, another global issue has raged in tandem with little notice — and without the additional money and resources needed to effectively battle it, experts said. Online child abuse and exploitation, already one of the biggest and growing crime challenges nationally, has spiked as COVID-19 has forced more people indoors with abusers and children spending more time on the internet.
The increase in reports tracks in the United States and abroad during the pandemic, experts said. Tips to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, the clearinghouse for such information in the United States, nearly doubled from 6.3 million in the first half of 2019 to 12 million through June of this year. Reports of online enticement similarly spiked during that timeframe, from 6,863 to 13,268.
“Online child exploitation right now is probably one of the biggest problems, from a crime perspective, in our country,” Pizzuro said.
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