Tips for exploited children soar in New York State

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ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — A web site on the dark web called “Boystown” is no more. The child porn platform is said to have been one of the largest sites with more than 400,000 users, some of whom New York State Police (NYSP) say may never be found. 

“One of the benefits and what draws bad guys to sites like this is they’re occurring on the dark web, and the dark web is well known for its anonymity,” said NYSP Acting Senior Investigator Melanie Dale.

In 2020, Dale said the agency had 8,000 tips come from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. In the first quarter of 2021, they’ve come close to half that number. 

“The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force has exploded exponentially,” Dale said. 

The dark web is filled with encrypted content that can’t be found through typical search engines. Because of its anonymity it’s used to distribute illegal material. 

Colonie Police have two officers dedicated to working on these types of cases. 

“If we had unlimited manpower, we could put many more investigators on this type of work. We certainly make a lot of arrests every year,” said Lieutenant Daniel Belles.

Belles said parents should always monitor their children’s social media and internet habits.

“[When] monitoring what they’re doing with [apps], make sure you know what apps they’re using. If they have any questions about what an app is or if it’s safe for a child to use, they can definitely reach out to us,” Belles said. 

Dale added a person on a site like Boystown could be anyone, including neighbors, friends or even a family members. 

“The biggest thing is talking to your kids. Talking to your kids and maintaining an open relationship because nothing in anything that they do should feel like the end of the world for them because kids make mistakes,” Dale said. 

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