Arizona police agencies warning parents about online sextortion

Queen Creek Police Department is trying to warn parents about the growing number of cases by holding a community event discussing sextortion.
Published: Aug. 24, 2022 at 7:51 AM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - Police have a warning for parents across the Valley over a growing number of cases of what’s called “sextortion.” It’s where teens and young kids are being blackmailed for explicit pictures.

Queen Creek Police Department is trying to get ahead of even more cases by holding a community event about this topic. “This is such a difficult thing for a lot of families because, similar to other problems, nobody thinks it’s ever going to happen to them,” said Queen Creek Police Chief Randy Brice.

The police department and the Pinal County Attorney’s Office report having several of these cases. Chief Brice said predators cast a wide net online, talking to hundreds of kids at once while pretending to be someone they’re not. “They spend hours, days and weeks grooming these children and really trying to get them to open up,” he said. “So, they spend a lot of times in chat rooms, gaming, social media, some other sites, and they’re very good at winning over their trust.”

Queen Creek Police Department says they're seeing a number of "sextortion" cases involving minors.

The chief said teens may be blackmailed into sending more explicit photos, money or actually meeting up for a sex act in order for predators to not release the images. He said for some children, it might be hard to ask for help. “They’re humiliated, they’re embarrassed. These are kids in often very religious families, well-to-do families. This is not a type of crime that excludes certain types of individuals,” he said.

The department is hosting a screening of the documentary “Sextortion: The Hidden Pandemic” on Saturday, Sept. 17, from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Queen Creek Performing Arts Center. The event is free, but tickets are required. You can register here. Attendees are encouraged to bring children ages 10 and up. There will be a Q&A time after the show.

Chief Brice said the best thing a parent can do is to be a safe space if their kid gets caught up in this situation as well as to report it to local officials. “We talk about this from a prevention expert’s standpoint, is to have not one 60-minute conversation, but sixty one-minute conversations. In other words, talk to them and pay attention to what’s happening,” he said.

The FBI reported over 18,000 sextortion cases in 2021.