CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Cuyahoga County Prosecutors are warning about the growing number of online predators targeting the masses of children who are spending more time online for school and entertainment amid the pandemic.
Carl Sullivan works on Ohio’s Internet Crimes Against Children task force.
“”We’re looking for anyone using social media to attract children away from the home,” he said.
Over the last year, Sullivan says more than 10,000 tips have come in to his office. That’s a record.
“The increase of a thousand, maybe eleven-hundred, is definitely from the pandemic,” he said.
Numbers prosecutors gave us show cybertips continued to skyrocket in 2020 after a more than 80 percent increase in 2019.
“That’s a huge jump,” Sullicant said. “Our investigators didn’t stop working during the pandemic.”
Already this year... prosecutors say they’ve arrested and charged repeat offenders.
As he was awaiting sentencing in another case, prosecutors say Ryan White uploaded child pornography online.
“That was a cyber tip we received,” Sullivan said.
White now faces new charges in that case.
“This just goes to show that within months we are catching some of the same people, even during the pandemic,” Sullivan said.
19 Investigates was also first to tell you earlier this week when police arrested this local music teacher.
Police say Greg Kinat had sexual conversations with an undercover officer he thought was a 15-year-old girl.
“Predators are inside. This is just going to continue,” Sullivan said. “I don’t think this is going to be anything going away soon.”
That’s why he says even though families are home together all the time now, Sullivan says it’s still important that parents are engaged.
“They have to know that even though I am working and my kids are right next to me, are they downloading new social media apps are they talking to individuals that they shouldn’t be?” he said.
If they are, the good news is that prosecutors are doing their best to intervene.
“I don’t think it takes a toll on me, it’s the exact opposite,” Sullivan siad. “It’s more rewarding to me. Ithink we are doing more work and protecting more kids.”
You can report suspicion of child sexual exploitation to your local police, your ICAC Task Force or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children’s CyberTipline.