Data Insights: 250% Increase in CyberTips of Online Exploitation of Children, 2019–2023

Last week, the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office (KCPAO) shared an update with reporters about our efforts to prosecute individuals who prey on children using the internet.

Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Laura Harmon is the member of our team that receives internet crimes against children (ICAC) cases that are referred by law enforcement to the KCPAO. This is a high-volume practice area (at any given time Harmon has a caseload of roughly 100 cases) that requires complex knowledge of digital and legal information that changes week to week.

King County Prosecuting Attorney Leesa Manion & Senior Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Laura Harmon

Harmon is a specialized prosecutor, who is not only cross deputized with the U.S. Attorney’s Office, but also serves as a member of Washington’s ICAC Taskforce, which is based at the Seattle Police Department. Washington’s ICAC Taskforce — which handles approximately 100 CyberTips each day —is one of 61 such taskforces across the country.

At the media briefing, Harmon shared data showing the alarming spike in these crimes since 2019, a trend which is also reflected nationwide. In Washington, there were 4610 Cybertips recorded statewide in 2019; that’s compared to 12,077 in 2023 — a more than 250% increase.

CyberTips in Washington State, 2019–2023

This trend in Washington is mirrored worldwide. In 2019 there were 16,987,361 CyberTips worldwide compared to 32,059,029 in 2022 — an increase of 188%.

CyberTips Worldwide, 2019–2022

While we know these cases vary, the vast majority of tips of the CyperTipline involve depictions of child pornography.

ICAC cases have a lifelong impact on victims, who suffer trauma as a result of their abuse being widely spread and used for illicit purposes. These investigations can also lead to offenders who have or are currently abusing children they have access to.

The KCPAO wants the public to know that there are resources available to help people who have been victimized by these crimes, and also to support parents who are looking to educate their children on how to stay safe on the internet:

Resources Available to Help

Report to the CyberTipLine: report.cybertip.org

Take it Down — this resource assists in the removal of victim’s depictions: takeitdown.ncmec.org

National Center for Missing & Exploited Children Parent Tools for self-educating and educating children:

NetSmartz: missingkids.org/netsmartz/home

KidSmartz: missingkids.org/education/kidsmartz

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