BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB)- The creepy man lurking near a playground has taken on a new shape.
Now, it’s more often the smooth-talking Facebook friend or the intriguing Instagram follower.
“With the advent of the internet, the game has changed. Now anyone with internet connection anywhere in the world is potentially a predator, and can reach out and prey on our children,” said FBI Supervisory Special Agent, Jeremy Bell.
Special Agent Bell told News 4 most sexual predators use the internet and social media to reach their victims.
He said one of the biggest misconceptions is that predators need to be near their victims to cause harm.
Another misconception? Predators are strangers.
“We often see those individuals that prey on children are close to them, they put themselves in a position to have access to children,” said FBI Special Agent In Charge, Holly Hubert.
She’s been working to bring down sex offenders for 23 years.
Special Agent Hubert said the “stranger danger” mentality exists for a reason, but it’s not the brunt of sex crimes against children.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice:
- Only 10 percent of child sex predators are strangers to the victim.
- 60 percent are known to the victim socially (i.e. neighbor, coach, teacher, babysitter)
- 30 percent of predators are related to the children they abuse.
“They’re able to manipulate the children because there is a family situation and they have so much access to the child that they psychologically manipulate them and they groom them so to speak, long before the abuse even happens,” Hubert told News 4.
That manipulation is part of the reason why so few sex crimes against children are reported.
And the recidivism rate for offenders is high; according to national statistics, compared to non-sex related criminals, sex offenders released from state prisons are four times more likely to be arrested for a sex crime again.
Bringing these offenders to justice is an uphill battle, but the FBI is constantly upping its game.
Locally the Child Exploitation Task Force, comprised of the FBI, Cheektowaga Police Department, Buffalo Police Department, and the Niagara County Sheriff’s Office, works to stay ahead of the game when it comes to combating online predators, and catching those in Western New York.