Child sex trafficking risks persist despite coronavirus pandemic

human trafficking
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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — The coronavirus pandemic has raised new concerns about child sex trafficking.

When the pandemic began, officials with the Center for Missing and Exploited Children thought the number of cases might decrease.

"There might be a reluctance for buyers to meet with kids in person, given fears of catching COVID-19," Vice President Staca Shehan said.

Instead, many traffickers have adapted to the new conditions.

"They’re selling the children in real life to buyers for commercial sex," Shehan said, "but they’re also expanding that to selling images of that child through subscription-based services online."

Shehan points out that victims of trafficking by a family member are at greater risk during this time because of the increased time at home.

"We forget that child sexual exploitation occurs in this country, and it’s more likely to be perpetrated by a person the child knows — and even to include family members."

She says there’s growing concern about familial trafficking going undetected.

"The pandemic is limiting the number of individuals that child interacts with, that could be the person that identifies those red flags," she said — such as teachers, coaches and friends.