FREDERICK COUNTY, Md. (WDVM) — With technology becoming more and more advanced by the day, there has been a spike in cybercrime, specifically when it comes to children and online predators.
“We’ve seen a tremendous increase in the number of cyber tips coming in regard to either child sexual abuse or child sextortion or other types of crimes where children are vulnerable or being exploited,” said FBI Supervisory Special Agent, Matt Vilcek.
The Frederick County Cyber Crime Task Force reports that the National Center for Missing Children recorded a 106% increase in cyber tipline reports. From January 1, 2020, to October 31 Maryland saw 4,711 tips and 163 of those were from Frederick County.
“We were not anticipating such a spike obviously, like we said, due to COVID, but also the nature due to the evolving and aggressive nature of the internet,” Chief Counsel for Frederick County Attorney’s Office, Joyce King. “Most teenagers and even preteens are on the internet, and it’s just a limitless population of potential victims.”
The FBI estimates that there are between 500,000 and 750,000 active sexual predators on the internet on any given day. Officials say with kids being out of the physical school building, virtual learning has only exasperated the problem.
“When kids get back to school, you’re going to see a huge spike in reporting once they get back to the coach that they trust, the counselor that they trust, the teacher that they trust,” said Frederick County State’s Attorney, Charlie Smith. “I think you’re going to see a big jump in reports here.”
Meanwhile, officials say they have more than tripled the number of child sex exploitation prosecutions in Frederick. In 2021, the task force is hoping the Maryland State Commission on the Criminal Sentencing Policy will increase its sentencing guidelines for child pornography and sexual solicitation of a minor offense.
Officials say they are raising the bar, as these are not victimless crimes and the offenders are not low risk.