‘Your children are not safe’ — How NJ is going after child predators
As the COVID-19 health emergency continues, authorities in New Jersey are trying to follow up on an increasing number of cyber tips about online predators stalking our kids.
“We’re inundated with cyber tips. That’s our focus and primary responsibility. We’re following up as many of these tips as we can,” said John Pizzuro, the commander of the New Jersey State Police Internet Crimes against Children Task Force.
He said the problem is getting worse because most interactions over the past eight months have become virtual, which this gives predators greater opportunity to target kids, and “the pandemic has isolated children, so we’re not having the normal structured activity, whether it be football, whether it be going outside, whether it be school activity.”
Pizzuro said typically, predators will go to gaming sites and apps to meet kids, frequently posing as other children, then steer them to other online platforms to try and create relationships with them.
He said the task force — made up of a core group of investigators and detectives from every prosecutor’s office in every New Jersey county, as well as officers from some municipalities — is going after online predators in a number of different ways.
“We’ll do different various techniques, from posing as children to posing as adults to have access to children, to investigating cyber tips we receive, to being on the dark net,” Pizzuro said.
He stressed law enforcement alone cannot stop this problem because the volume of child endangerment crimes is rising, so “we need help from the community and parents and education in order for us to really make a dent in this.”
He said instead of just assuming their kids are playing with children their own age on gaming sites, parents need to take the time to get involved.
“They need to be present. They need to be communicative,” he said. Tthey need to look at what their children are doing, and I think that we’re so busy as a society that we’re not spending the time.”
He said parents must sit down and talk to their kids, while also continually inspecting their laptops and phones to know what’s really going on.
“You can’t just hand your child an electronic device and pray for the best,” Pizzuro said. “We have all of these protocols in society to keep our children safe but we don’t have it for technology.”
“I’ve been doing this for more than five years and I can tell you your children are not safe," he said. "They are being exploited more now than ever.”
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