ICE reports significant increases in cybercrime cases against better people following the increase in internet use during the pandemic. (Archive)
Liberty Puerto Rico is strengthening its alliance with the Investigative Department on Exploitation of Minors of the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (known as ICE) to raise awareness of the need to educate about internet safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is due to higher risks of solicitation and cyberbullying through social media.
To achieve this goal, Liberty Puerto Rico will continue to present a series of videos that it produced with ICE's Investigative Department on Exploitation of Minors. The video series discusses the risks of cyberbullying and exploitation that children and tweens can be exposed to when surfing unsupervised and how they can protect themselves.
ICE Special Agents Alek Pacheco and Reynaldo Medina discuss the issue in the videos, providing valuable information and advice aimed at children and preteens between the ages of 6-12.
“We have identified the need to increase the discussion about Internet safety for children given that at the moment there are so many students online due to quarantine, and therefore they are more exposed to predators than ever before,” said Giovanna Ramírez de Arellano , director of communications and corporate responsibility of Liberty Puerto Rico. “Through our alliance with ICE, we want to start a conversation on this important topic and offer valuable resources so that children, youth and adults can protect themselves from potential predators lurking on the internet.”
According to Iván J. Arvelo, special agent in charge of ICE's Office of Homeland Security Investigations in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, along with the increase in internet use since the start of the COVID-19 quarantine in March , and a greater number of students and adults working online, the agency has seen a growing number of referrals from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) . Referrals from the non-profit organization, which handles cases of missing and exploited children and young people up to age 20, rose 48% in March, increased 127% in April, and grew 23% in May. This trend has continued for the last two quarters of this fiscal year.
“Crimes against children in Puerto Rico and around the nation are growing at alarming levels and that is very worrying,” said Arvelo. “Nationwide, since the launch of ICE's Operation Predator in 2003, and through 2019, ICE HSI has carried out 19,000 arrests for possession, production and distribution of child pornography, in addition to the transportation of minors with the intent to to lead them to any criminal sexual conduct ”.
The special agent added that during fiscal year 2019, ICE opened 4,474 cases in the United States, including Puerto Rico, which resulted in 3,957 arrests and the identification and rescue of 1,069 victims.
The series of videos produced by Liberty Puerto Rico and ICE is currently available in downloadable format on the Navega con Seguridad microsite at http://navegaconseguridad.net/recursos.html.
This is Liberty Puerto Rico's internet safety campaign, which educates the public to use the internet in a responsible and safe manner and continues throughout the year. In addition to the videos, the microsite also has more information, downloadable resources, tip sheets and educational materials on the subject.