Harris County Precinct 1 Constable Alan Rosen is asking families to be especially aware of online predators while their children are spending more time at home during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Rosen’s office said it led a multi-agency online undercover operation earlier this year that resulted in 10 arrests throughout the Houston area. Officers working as part of the Houston Metro Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force posed as minors to identify adults who were using the internet to solicit sex, according to a news release from Rosen’s office.
Among those arrested in February and charged with online solicitation of a minor, a felony, were 34-year-old James Wayne Farr and 41-year-old Jason Gardner. According to Harris County court records, Farr has an address in the Mangum Manor area, while Gardner has a Northside address.
Rosen’s office said investigators have since “seen an increase in activity on social media platforms where predators commonly seek out children.” Houston and Harris County are under a stay-at-home, work safe order through the end of April as the region tries to slow the spread of COVID-19, the upper-respiratory disease caused by the new coronavirus.
“This is a predator’s playground,” Rosen said. “Parents can’t be so preoccupied with working now from home or the responsibilities of homeschooling that they neglect their obligation to be involved enough to know who their children are talking to online.”
Rosen offered the following tips to help parents protect their children from online predators:
- Look often at your child’s phone, laptop or other devices
- Set up a monitoring app and/or increase privacy restrictions
- Read the conversations they are having
- Talk to your child about online safety, reminding them they should only talk to people they know in real life
- Encourage them to report inappropriate conversations to a trusted adult
Additional resources for parents are available on the website for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.