Detective: Child sex crimes are “spiking” during lockdowns – ‘They’re targeting our kids.’

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CLAY COUNTY, FL – A Clay County Sheriff’s Office detective that is currently undercover recently explained an unexpected symptom of the ongoing pandemic – an increase in predators targeting children online.

The anonymous detective claimed that there’s been five investigations that have cropped up since the onset of the pandemic, noting there’s been an increase when compared to previous years.

One recent arrest in Clay County was of 79-year-old Phillip Jan Scharf. Scharf was arrested on April 3rd under two counts of possession of child pornography. With everybody being instructed to stay home these days, those with the inclination of nefarious intent against children have a lot more time on their hands to engage in said exploits.

Sandra Shin is the founder of the nonprofit group Hope for Freedom, which works to bring light to the effects of human trafficking. Shin noted on the newfound free time that has spawned opportunity for the worst of society to attempt exploiting children online:

“A lot of people are not able to go out to work, so they’re using that opportunity at this time to exploit children.”

Shin is all too familiar with the horrors associated with child exploitation. She spoke about her past, when her mother used her as a means of paying for their mortgage when she was just a child:

“My mom bought a house and was unable to pay for it. And at 11 years old I was given to a man to have sex with as payment until I was 13 years old, and at that time I ran away.”

At the time that Shin was forced to endure those years of being sold, she explained that there was no one she could reach out to while in her mother’s care:

“If I had had someone to say something in my life, that wouldn’t have happened to me.”

An increased number of reports have been coming in related to children being targeted online to the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office in Florida as well. However, despite the increase in submitted tips, there have been no recent arrests linked to them reportedly.

The Putnam County Sheriff’s Office also released a warning to parents back in late March about potentially dangerous phone apps that kids may be using as well. The list included applications such as Hot or Not, LiveMe, Calculator% (also known as the Secret Calculator), Kik, Bumble, Wishbone, Whisper, Tellonym, Snapchat, Discord, Tik Tok, AskFM and Holla.

The PCSO noted that children utilizing these types of apps while unmonitored can present copious amounts of risk to their online privacy and safety:

“Some kids will stay up and play games online late into the evening, making them more susceptible to online predators.”

What probably isn’t helping is the types of inmates getting released under concerns related to COVID-19. 

Over the past month, nearly 830 Massachusetts inmates have reportedly been freed over concerns about the virus spreading in prisons.

Now we’ve learned that among them are two men who are accused of raping children.

They are convicted child rapist Glenn Christie, 54-years-old, and 29-year-old Matthew Parris.  Parris is accused of raping two teenage girls this year.

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Both men were released from Massachusetts prisons in April.  The move came following an order by the state’s supreme court for the release of hundreds of accused and convicted criminals.

In total, Massachusetts officials have released 824 inmates from state prisons between April 3 and April 24. That breaks down to approximately 36 inmates per day.

According to the state, as of the time of their report, there were approximately 110 confirmed cases of the coronavirus among inmates in the state’s prisons.  That number is out of more than 310 inmates tested for the virus.

According to that same report, a total of 81 correctional officers and 23 other staffers in the state prison system have also tested positive.

Here’s some background on the two inmates released:

In 2018, Glenn Christie was convicted of repeatedly raping a 12-year-old boy.  According to The Salem News, Christie was on a 10-year probation period after completing a prison term for the rapes, which happened in the city of Lynn.

He was then sentenced to return to state prison for up to two years, something that was challenged by his attorney in a request that was denied prior to this release.

“The health risks to a person in custody caused by the pandemic constitute changed circumstances,” which entitle Christie to a new hearing, Chief Justice Ralph Gants wrote, according to the outlet.

“We also conclude that, in conducting that (new) review, a judge must give careful consideration not only to the risks posed by releasing the defendant –- flight, danger to others or to the community, and likelihood of further criminal acts — but also, during this pandemic, to the risk that the defendant might die or become seriously ill if kept in custody.”

His attorney argued that Christie suffers from hypothyroidism and possible thyroid cancer, kidney disease and spinal stenosis, and so he needed to be released.

Then there’s Parris, who was also released from prison because of that court order.

He was arrested less than two months ago and charged with raping and sexually assaulting two teenage girls.

Parris worked as a teaching assistant at Southeastern Regional Vocational Technical High School.  According to the charges, that’s when he contacted a 15-year-old student through Instagram.

Police said the two met at a local cemetery, which is where Parris allegedly attempted to kiss her and touch her breast.

The victim told police Parris gave her a bag with a sex toy in it before she ran off.

A little over a week later, according to police, Parris threatened and forced the girl to perform oral sex on him in the middle of a school day inside a closet.

A second victim came forward and also reported to that Parris had similarly contacted her through Instagram.

That victim said that when the two met in person, Parris forced the girl to perform oral sex on him and he then threatened the victim’s family.

She told police that the next day, Parris forced the girl to get undressed in his car before driving somewhere and sexually assaulting her.

According to reports, Parris had already pleaded not guilty to charges of aggravated statutory rape, rape of a child with force, and kidnapping of a child.

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