PITTSBURGH — Investigators are seeing a surge in child porn and exploitation tips in Allegheny County, according to Allegheny County Police.
They’re working through the challenges that have seemingly been amplified over the last two years during the pandemic due to so many people being at home and using the internet.
As of today there’s a backlog of more than 270 cases.
Allegheny County Police Superintendent Christopher Kearns says for the last year the department has had two detectives assigned to the FBI’s Child Exploitation Task Force.
“Is it a broken system? I don’t believe it’s a broken system. Like I said — with the explosion of tips we’re doing the best we can with the numbers,” said Christopher Kearns, Allegheny County Police Superintendent.
The detectives work specifically on handling tips regarding Internet Crimes Against Children like those in Wednesday’s case of Keystone Oaks music teacher Thomas Duxbury.
Allegheny County Police started on the case in March 2022 after the tip worked its way through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children when they got a cybertip last July.
It took until April 22 to identify Duxbury and remove him from the school.
It brought major concern to Angi Dudas, a Keystone Oaks Parent.
“You worry he’s in possession of that. What else could he have done?”
In 2018 Allegheny County only had one detective assigned to the FBI’s Child Exploitation Task Force and handled more than 160 tips.
In 2019 the tips climbed to more than 300.
And in 2020 with so many people at home and using the internet—they hit a record high.
“In 2020 he was up to 372 tips. And that’s when we started to see a backlog in the queue,” said Kearns.
By March 2021 they added a second detective.
Kearns says they currently get support from the FBI to assist in cases, along with other detectives handling child line cases.
He stresses that if there is an immediate threat to a child, they take action.
“They’ve worked 186 cases so far this year and there’s 272 currently in the cue. Does that bring concern to you? Of course it brings concern, but as I said any case in which they think of a child is in immediate danger the detectives are notified immediately,” said Kearns.
Kearns also pointed out that in many of these cases they have to work through IP addresses, fake names and social media identities to get to the real person, and they can’t just immediately arrest suspects because they need search warrants and evidence to prosecute them.
He stresses the victim’s safety is the No. 1 priority.
He also pointed out that having additional detectives would help, but he is appreciative of support from the County Executive and other county leaders.
“I don’t know if I can say it’s a lack of resources but ya know we just don’t have enough people to put a high priority, a high number of people on every single instance of what we investigate,” said Kearns.
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