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Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, officials with the Federal Bureau of Investigation said violent crimes against children have more than tripled. (Photo: KATV)

Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, officials with the Federal Bureau of Investigation said violent crimes against children have more than tripled.

These crimes include production, distribution and possession of child pornography. As kids get ready to return to school and potentially more online learning, parents need to be aware.

In 2019, public affairs officer Connor Hagan said they had about 30 cases involving violent crimes against children. In 2020, that number jumped to about 105, and he said Arkansas is on track to surpass that for 2021.

"They are coming out of the woodwork and they are trying to victimize children in our community," Hagan said. "There's a lot of factors that play into that, obviously, you know, people moved online and started doing you know, stuff more at home rather than in person."

Hagan said not only are there more kids online, but kid’s online activity isn’t as closely monitored as it should be. He said predators use apps like Snapchat, KIK and What’s App, oftentimes pretending to be someone their age, or even a famous rapper or actor.

"We've seen multiple times where a kid will kind of be duped into talking to someone that they think is someone around their age," Hagan said. "They plan to meet up and, you know, the results can be, you know, horrible, if not lethal."

Hagan said predators know how to look out for vulnerable children that could turn into potential victims. He said parents and kids need to have open communication about some of the dangers that are out there online.

"Those are your kids, those are the devices that you are paying for, you need to be monitoring them," Hagan said. "I have never heard a victim's parent or you know, a family members say 'Oh, well, I wish I'd been a little bit less, you know, intrusive, or given them a little bit more privacy.'"

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Parents can find resources and advice on the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children website.

The FBI encourages anyone who has any suspicion something wrong might be taking place with a child to make a report to 501-221-9100 and they’ll look into it.

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