PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) - City police and state investigators are seeing a dramatic decrease in the number of reports of child abuse. But they don't believe the abuse is going away.

"We're very concerned about the situation," said Claire Louge, who is the executive director of Prevent Child Abuse Arizona.

She says the ingredients are in place for child abuse to actually increase, instead of decrease.

"Generally speaking, even in non-pandemic situations, when stress goes up in a family, we can expect abuse and neglect likelihood to also go up," said Louge.

But according to the database of crime calls to Phoenix police, reports of child abuse are down by 21% from February to March, which was when families across the state began to stay home because of COVID-19.

In February, 100 calls to Phoenix police resulted in police reports for child abuse. In March, the number dropped to 79.

Likewise, the Arizona Department of Child Safety reported to CBS 5 Investigates that its child abuse hotline received 25% fewer calls in recent weeks. But they do not believe the actual child abuse incidents are dropping.

A spokesman for DCS stated that children being out of school may account for some of that drop because teachers and school officials call in the most reports of child abuse. Louge agrees.

"We don't think that this crisis is having a positive effect on anyone at this point, least of all children. So it's very likely that what's happening is because there are less eyes on children, less protective adults around children, we're getting less reports, not, unfortunately, that kids are being abused less," said Louge.

Prevent Child Abuse Arizona is hosting a webinar on how to identify and report child abuse on Friday at 11am. You can register here.

The state hotline to report child abuse or neglect is 888-SOS-CHILD (888-767-2445).

Morgan Loew's hard-hitting investigations can be seen weekdays on CBS 5 News at 6:30 p.m. and 10 p.m.

Copyright 2020 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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