Week of May 3, 2020
A weekly column by Police Chief Steven Wojnar of the Dudley Police Department
The COVID-19 situation continues to create many challenges. Unsuspecting people can unwittingly become the victim of a crime. Another issue brought to my attention this past week, was on-line predators trying to exploit young people. With so much on-line activity taking place now, these instances are becoming more common. The US Attorney and the Homeland Securities Investigation Offices offered some warnings for parents that I wanted to take this opportunity to share.
As a result of school closings due to COVID-19, children are increasingly using online resources for schoolwork and entertainment. Due to increased access to and reliance on social media, chatting apps, gaming, and other internet-based platforms, children may be more vulnerable to sexual exploitation. Now more than ever before, it is imperative that parents and guardians take steps to educate and protect children online. The U.S. Attorney’s Office and Homeland Security Investigations have partnered to develop an awareness campaign, “Think Before You Click,” to encourage parents and guardians to discuss internet safety with children of all ages and to monitor internet use. The goal is to make parents and guardians more cognizant of the dangers to children online and arm them with tools to protect children’s privacy.
According to Jason Molina, Acting Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Boston, the marked increase in social media usage, and lessened social interaction, may create opportunity for predators to exploit our children. The combination of parental supervision, open discussions about internet safety, active monitoring, and smarter use of privacy settings will reduce the chance of victimization from child predators. Some recommendations are to position computers in common areas and not in bedrooms, try to maintain the highest possible security settings for on-line profiles and gaming, check their profiles often to know who they are talking to and what they are posting, and have open discussions of internet safety with all children, particularly around the issue of how photos posted on-line, are permanent.
They are promoting a program called, “Project Safe Childhood (PSC)” which can provide a great deal of information on these subjects. This program was founded in May of 2006 by the Department of Justice, as a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. The goal is to locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children, as well as identify and rescue victims. PSC also conducts education and outreach programs aimed at combating and preventing technology-facilitated crimes.” For more information, visit: www.projectsafechildhood.gov , www.netsmartzkids.org , www.missingkids.org , www.ice.gov/topics/iGuardians , www.justice.gov/usao-ma/project-safe-childhood .
Thanks again go out to the men and women from my department for their continued dedicated service to the Town of Dudley. Thanks also go out to the many Fire and Emergency Services members, public works and government employees, hospital workers, grocery and retail workers, and all other “essential” personnel for their continued hard work and service thorough this situation. We will get through this and hopefully we will be back in full swing soon, with as limited negative impact as possible.
Thanks again for your questions and comments. Please send them to me at the Dudley Police Department 71 West Main St., Dudley, Ma. 01571 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Opinions expressed in this weekly column are those of Chief Wojnar only and unless clearly noted, do not reflect the ideas or opinions of any other organization or citizen.