RIVERSIDE COUNTY, CA — Cyber tips coming into the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children increased 110 percent from 1,245 in 2019 to 2,692 tips in 2020, according to the DA’s Office.
Investigators believe the jump is due to kids spending more time online — where predators often lurk — amid the pandemic, according to the DA’s Office.
The rise in tips and cases prompted the Riverside County Board of Supervisors on April 27 to unanimously approve an ongoing cost of $962,062 to expand the Riverside County Child Exploitation Team that’s led by the DA’s Office Bureau of Investigation.
The RCCET is tasked with investigating tips and preventing the exploitation of kids.
Keeping up with the dramatic rise in investigations and cases has been “overwhelming” at the team’s current staffing levels, according to the DA’s Office.
The funding will provide the Riverside County Child Exploitation Team with one additional supervising DA investigator, two additional senior DA investigators, and an additional DA computer forensic examiner, according to the DA’s Office.
Supervisor Chuck Washington, whose Third District includes Temecula, told the board last week that although the cost is not one-time, he supported the expense and called the rise in reported cases “alarming.”
Since the inception of the RCCET in June 2020, arrests of child exploitation suspects have increased, according to the DA’s Office. The team has “identified or rescued 23 previously unreported minor victims”; 13 people were arrested in 202o during RCCET sting operations targeting alleged predators, according to the agency.
“We must do everything possible to stop the horrific rise in the exploitation and victimization of our children,” DA Chief of Investigators Joe DelGiudice said in a released statement.
In a released statement, Riverside County Board of Supervisors Chair Karen Spiegel said electronic exploitation of youth has been “deeply exacerbated by the intensive use of online learning, digital gaming, social media, and daily virtual activities which are frequently unsupervised.”
Spiegel brought the RCCET item to the Board. In her released statement, she added, “This type of victimization cannot become the ‘new normal’ for our children. I’m confident that the District Attorney’s team will make a notable difference.”
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