Child Pornography Cases Cause Increased Workloads for Federal Agents During COVID-19 Pandemic

ST. LOUIS, MO—Federal prosecutors, within the Eastern District of Missouri, are working an increased amount of cases involving child pornography.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office have indicted 62 defendants who abused children in some way. Those defendants represent a 16% increase from last year.

Prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, including those at the field office in Cape Girardeau, handled cases ranging from production of child pornography to human trafficking.

“It is very rewarding to be able to help the most vulnerable victims by being able to prosecute those who prey upon them,” said Jeff Jensen, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Missouri.

In 2019, technology firms flagged more than 45 million photos and videos as child sexual abuse, according to an investigation by The New York Times. That number more than doubled in one year. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received a record 18 million tips to its hotline last year. By comparison, the tip line received a total of 565,000 calls during its first 10 years, between 1998 and 2008.

“Our office strives to protect children from sexual exploitation through federal prosecutions, but we need everyone to be vigilant in protecting our children. Please monitor your children’s internet usage so they don’t become victims of those who wish to exploit them,” added Jensen.

District Court Judges have sentenced 28 defendants, this year, to an average of 111 months which means those predators will be unable to harm children for nearly 10 years. The judges have also ordered more than $1,000,000 in restitution.

“Child predators are everywhere. They are men and women, young and old, coming from all races, classes and occupations. Technology has made accessing and grooming children easier than ever,” said Sarah Pingsterhaus, a Victim Witness Specialist for the Eastern District of Missouri.

Members of the Victim Witness Unit stress it is vital to discuss internet safety and encourage parents to monitor their child’s online activity.

“If you notice your child becoming secretive while online, turning off the computer screen when you enter the room, becoming obsessive about being online and angry when they are not allowed or disengaging from their normal circle of friends, it is time to start asking questions,” added Pingsterhaus.