Members of the Northwest Louisiana Human Trafficking Task Force (Task Force), which is comprised of federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies and non-governmental organizations, have noticed a disturbing trend in the rise of sexual predator cases. For instance, the Louisiana Attorney General’s Office has reported a 200 percent increase in online sexual predator cases since the beginning of the pandemic. Because of this trend, the Task Force has launched “Project R.I.S.K.” (Reliable Internet Safety for Kids).
Since March of 2020, the coronavirus pandemic has pushed our youth more to the internet than ever before. Today, the internet not only entertains and connects our youth with their peers, but a vast majority of them are using the internet for virtual schooling. This increase in internet activity allows more opportunity for predators to interact with our youth. As we see in all cases, predators will also adapt to their changing environments.
In this Public Service Announcement (PSA), which launches Project R.I.S.K., leaders of area law enforcement agencies provide advice to help prevent predators from victimizing children. Leaders advise all guardians (parents, teachers, custodians, etc.) to place ALL devices (computers, laptops, tablets, and phones) in common areas. Phones, even those with no service, allow the same access to predators as a computer or other device. Guardians need to know what apps are on these devices and also know their children’s passwords. Project R.I.S.K. encourages all guardians to engage in their children’s activities.
All agencies in our Task Force share a united front to eliminate all human trafficking type cases; however, to be more successful, we need assistance from the public. We understand many guardians want to protect their kids but may not know where to look for “reliable internet safety information.” Project R.I.S.K. has asked all agencies in our Task Force to post this reliable information on their websites, so guardians will always have this information at their fingertips. Finally, members of the Task Force will be available to meet with citizens, local government officials, community organizations, school boards, churches, and other groups to discuss Project R.I.S.K. and internet safety.