TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - The Tucson Police Department has seen an influx of human trafficking cases during COVID-19, especially involving children.
"We have had a significant increase since this time last year," said Jennifer Crawford, a detective for the Tucson Police Department Street Crime Unit. "Most of them, we've found have met their trafficker, predator or potential predator online."
Crawford said the rise in human trafficking cases may be linked to predators using the internet to contact children and kids spending more time online virtual learning.
"I've had about 15 cases just in the last month that have come in and that's very unusual to have that many with a lot of them being assigned for follow-up," she said.
On average she gets about two cases per week. She said it's important to note that the case numbers the department categorizes as human trafficking may not give justice to how often it's actually happening.
"The majority of our cases, particularly if they involve youth, are actually investigated under runaways, or recovered runaway reports, sometimes domestic violence especially for adults," Crawford said.
As children continue online learning, TPD recommends for parents monitor their children’s activity online and check out their privacy settings on social media and online gaming.
“If they see something and want to know something else, I mean Google is a really great resource,” she said. “It will tell you what something means like a weird slang term or an emoji or something like that.”