Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul joined Illinois State Police Director Brendan Kelley on Thursday to discuss an increase in online child sexual exploitation reports.
Cyber Crime Specialist Christine Feller joined them in Springfield to highlight the dangers of online predators. She says they are expecting a 16% increase in reports this year. While most of the incidents involve adults abusing children, Feller says children are posting inappropriate content to social media helping to spur that increase: “There is an increase in sexting in elementary age [children]. We saw many youth who were self-exploring that are beginning with Google and YouTube. Again, having those conversations with our children: What do we take pictures of? What do we take videos of? and What should be placed on the Internet?”
Feller says parents need to watch for warning signs that their child is talking to a potential child predator: “Red flags could include someone asking you to be their boyfriend or girlfriend online, someone asking them to create a new account possibly on a messaging app – that would be a red flag; asking individuals not to tell about your relationship or that you are talking to them.”
The Illinois Crimes Against Children Task Force works to investigate the reports of child exploitation. They also train law enforcement agencies and provide online safety education to kids and adults. During 2020, the ICAC Task Force received 5,184 CyberTipline reports from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Illinois’ ICAC Task Force is one of 61 ICAC Task Forces throughout the country and is comprised of a network of more than 278 local, county, state and federal law enforcement agencies. Since 2006, the ICAC Task Force has been involved in more than 1,780 arrests of sexual predators. The task force also has provided internet safety training and education to more than 953,500 parents, teachers and students and more than 23,100 law enforcement professionals.
To report suspected online child sexual exploitation, please contact local law enforcement or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children CyberTipline at 1-800-THE-LOST.