Pandemic leads to rise in child porn referrals to authorities, NJ officials say

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UNION COUNTY, N.J. — There has been a “surge” in referrals involving child pornography cases during the coronavirus pandemic, officials in New Jersey said Friday.

Since the public health emergency was declared on March 9, the Union County Prosecutor’s Office’s Cyber Crime Task Force has received 29 referrals, up from 17 in April 2019, according to Sgt. David Nechamkin, the investigative leader of the task force.

The data mirrors trends seen both statewide and nationwide, the prosecutor’s office said.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children recently reported that the number of tips it received increased from just under 1 million in March 2019 to slightly more than 2 million in March 2020.

The announcement came as the office announced child porn charges against Dakeen Stockling, 19, of Elizabeth.

Officials said court-ordered searches of Stockling’s Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat accounts confirmed he’d been in possession of and distributed explicit images of a minor.

Authorities said he’s scheduled to appear in court on June 17 in Union County. He is awaiting sentencing in a separate, similar matter, in which he recently pleaded guilty to charges of third-degree invasion of privacy and fourth-degree cyber harassment, they said.

Facing this surge in child pron referrals, Actiny Union County Prosecutor Lyndsay Ruotolo urged parents to stay alert to their child’s or children’s online activity.

“As our children spend more time away from school and friends, going online instead,” she said, “they unfortunately risk coming in contact with those who will seek to exploit them.”

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