TUCSON, Ariz. (KGUN) — The sex trafficking issue continues to linger along with the pandemic in our communities making for a dangerous combination.
KGUN 9 recently caught up with detective Jennifer Crawford with the Tucson Police Department’s Sex Trafficking Division. Crawford says they’re still investigating cases from last year. While there haven’t been any recent jumps in the number of cases predators are still lurking on the internet and streets. The easiest way to entice your kids is through social media.
“Anything that has an online platform to communicate with somebody they can potentially interact with that. Even gaming consoles, I think parents forget about gaming systems and those can be very dangerous as well. They do have chat rooms, private rooms that you can go into where you can have conversations with people,” Crawford said.
Experts say if a teen gets upset and starts to post negative thoughts online like “My life sucks” or “I need to get out of here” and if that page is public that’s the perfect timing for traffickers who are ready and waiting to respond with the exact words what that teen wants to hear.
"Not necessarily that bad kid but maybe someone who’s having a bad day or maybe their home life isn’t that great or they’re withdrawn and don’t have a lot of friends. That's who they might see as potentially an easier target than someone else,” Crawford said.
According to Crawford there’s also a secret and dangerous language of codes hidden within cyberspace they include the use of emojis and messages that are right in your face and you might not know it, but a quick web search can shut it down.
"If you google secret meaning of emojis it's going to come back and you’re going to get a big list of what they might mean. There's a list of emojis that could mean potential drugs a leaf can mean marijuana or a snowflake can mean cocaine. As far as sex trafficking stuff sometimes different animals can mean something different foods or fruits,” Crawford said.
The McCain Institute recently launched a new program called RealFriendsDont.org. It gives parents the resources and tools needed to keep their kids safe online, while trying to keep the dark side of the web at bay.
“Educate yourself, if you as a parent don’t know anything about social media it's going to be hard for you to find those things that you need to look for that could be potential danger signs,” Crawford said.