RPD continues partnership with Internet Crimes Against Children task force


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(ABC 6 News) – To combat unimaginable crimes against children, the Rochester Police Department will continue its partnership with ICAC, a task force headed by the Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, as reports of child-related internet crimes are at an all-time high.

In 2019, the Minnesota BCA received about 3,000 tips on suspected child abuse content. In 2023, that number only increased, reaching around 9,000, according to MN BCA Superintendent Drew Evans.

“Every time a child is sexually abused, and their image or video is shared, they are re-abused in that process,” said Evans. “So, by individuals downloading or consuming those images or videos, they’re re-abusing that child every single time they do that.”

Renewing the partnership between RPD and ICAC for another 5 years seems like a no-brainer to officers, especially when the department says they’re more than happy to work to keep kids safe.

“I don’t think there’s a cop or police officer in the Rochester Police Department who isn’t proud to do what they do,” said RPD Sgt. Ben Schlag. “We have a responsibility, and one of those responsibilities is to protect those who can’t protect themselves.”

“The state of Minnesota and the government as a whole, they give us the tools and the right to go out and do that,” added Schlag.

There are many steps parents and caretakers can utilize when keeping their children safe.

In the current digital age, it can be difficult to differentiate what is harmless and what could pose a life-threatening risk, especially if you don’t know what to look for.

“[Parents should be] talking to their children, making sure that children (who we want to be naïve) we don’t want them to understand the dangers of the world, but it’s important that they do. It’s important for them to understand that certain things they’re seeing online, or people that they’re talking to, that they’re aware of the potential dangers,” said Evans.

The work RPD does can be tough, especially when dealing with a crime without borders. According to the department, you have to take the good and the bad when you’re facing the worst.

“We certainly get a lot of wins out of it too, when we rescue a kid from a situation like that, or help change somebody’s tire or visit with them when they’re having a lousy day,” said Schlag. “You have to balance that, right? So there’s a lot of good stuff, it’s really easy to focus on the negative, but there’s a tremendous amount of positive.”

With so much of our daily lives online, the same visibility, translates to our children.

It takes a widespread effort to not only prevent the sexual exploitation of kids, but hold those who commit these heinous crimes accountable.