Online Child Abuse Complaints Surpass 4 Million In April. This Is How Cops Are Coping Despite COVID-19.

August 17, 2020

Gable roofed and guarded with neoclassical columns along the porch, the house in the small Kitsap Peninsula city of Poulsbo, Washington, looked like your archetypal American family home. Inside was a Navy man, who lived with his wife and child, and worked as an electrician at the nearby base.

But on April 15, that house, and the suspect’s family life, were about to be turned upside down. Outside that quaint-looking house were officers from the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), ready to swoop in to seize all phones and computing equipment inside. According to a search warrant, some months previous, NCIS had been tipped off that, using the Cash App payment service (part of the $32 billion market cap startup Square), an account linked to the suspect had allegedly been used to purchase child pornography from another man accused of running a Tumblr page from which he advertised the sale of horrific content. (NCIS said no charges have been filed as the matter is still under investigation. The suspect, whose name Forbes has chosen to keep private due to the lack of an indictment, hadn’t responded to emails.)

The raid came at a time when online child exploitation complaints have exploded, hitting over 4 million in March. It’s a rise that’s been caused, in part, by the spike in children and adults using the web as they’re hunkered down at home as coronavirus lockdowns continue across the world.

The NCIS officers had all the data they needed to raid the suspect’s property, largely thanks to information provided by Square, which detailed his name and address. But they had something else to consider before they stormed in: the risk of COVID-19 contagion. So, as NCIS told Forbes, they entered wearing full-body Tyvek suits, gloves and N95 masks; the kinds of personal protective equipment (PPE) worn by frontline hospital staff dealing with the coronavirus outbreak. “In a lot of ways, it’s not vastly different from what you would normally see us wearing on a crime scene examination, just potentially a little more tailored to this specific health crisis,” says Greg Ford, NCIS executive assistant director for criminal investigations and operations.

To read the full story by Thomas Brewster on Forbes: Click Here


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