The subject of crimes against children gained national attention after two FBI agents were killed while serving a warrant in Sunrise this week.
Agents Daniel Alfin and Laura Schwartzenberger were experts in the field of protecting children from these predators, but how prevalent are these cases in South Florida and what’s being done to combat the issue?
"A close friend of mine was at another search warrant, also a child protection case quite nearby this warrant, so I think that highlights both the scale of the problem and the challenges law enforcement face when dealing with these cases," said Glen Pounder, Chief Operating Officer of Child Rescue Coalition.
The local non-profit works hand in hand with law enforcement, giving them free technology to help track and prosecute child predators across the globe.
Since January of 2021, NBC 6 has reported on two Broward doctors arrested on charges related to child pornography.
Parkland pediatrician Michael Mizrachy was arrested on January 13th and just a few days later, gastroenterologist Stewart Bitman of Coral Springs was also taken into custody on allegations of crimes against children.
“It might seem like it's more prevalent right now but I think the reality is that cops in the local area are doing a great job to proactively investigate these crimes," Pounder said. "I think people should feel reassured really that there’s been this many cases recently and that cops are being proactive to investigate these crimes."
With more kids being online during the pandemic, Pounder said this is an issue that isn’t going away.
"I think there’s a definite impact with regards to Covid. Of course our kids are spending more time online and consequently bad guys know this and they see this as an opportunity for them to target children online," said Pounder.
In a recent podcast interview with Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony, Det. Michael Joo with the department's Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, broke down some of the recent statistics on these cases in Broward.
"Let’s say 2019, with our unit we initiated over 200 cases and made over 48 arrests for child exploitation related offenses. And they all had a Broward connection and involved the Internet in some way. So when people try to sit there and say it’s somewhere else and it’s not here, we have those facts and figures that show it’s here in Broward County," said Joo.
The detective also said that with many people online due to the pandemic in 2020, the numbers in reference to cases of child sexual abuse materials probably doubled.
According to Broward Sheriff’s Office Lt. Andrea Tianga, The South Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force may take in around 4,000-5,000 tips annually. These tips are forwarded to the appropriate jurisdiction for investigation.
Tianga said in 2019, they executed more search warrants and arrested more offenders than in past recent years. They also noticed throughout the years, while they saw a decrease in computer forensic examinations, they were seeing an increase in other electronic devices like phones, tablets and external hard drives.