12 News Investigates: Online crimes against children on the rise during pandemic

12 News Investigates

JACKSON, Miss. (WJTV) – It’s estimated tens of thousands of people are visiting Las Vegas this week.

“Every year more people will fly into Las Vegas than the actual Super Bowl host seating, betting on the Super Bowl,” said Jody Dyess, the East Coast Director of Free International.

That’s not why Dyess is there.

“We know when the population increases, prostitution increases, and human trafficking is all in there,” he said.

Dyess says it’s all hands on deck to find 30 victims this week with Las Vegas police. Seven have been recovered so far. Teams go into massage parlors to give those working gifts. Inside are bottles with numbers written in Mandarin and Chinese to call for help. They’re also looking for children working there. Volunteers are passing out cards with the pictures of the missing children to get identities and leads for law enforcement to find them.

“Usually, we’re in the back sides of Vegas. The old rundown motels, the old Vegas areas, housing complexes, trailer parks.”

He said more predators are turning online to web cameras and that’s where he’s seen a spike.

“And so a lot of the traffickers will let the victims perform online, and you got all these people watching now, so they’re probably making more money from that site, and it’s harder to track that down because a lot of these sites are offshore companies or offshore accounts. It’s hard to go after those companies, like Backpage.com was able to be taken down because it was a U.S company.” 

Technology is keeping people connected in the pandemic, but at the same time, criminals are using it to take advantage of children and exploit them.

Dyess advises parents to know who their child is talking to online and know their passwords by utilizing a safety app.

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