FISHERS, Ind. (WISH) – An online safety forum hosted by Fishers Police comes as the Hamilton County Child Exploitation Task Force reports an increase in crimes like child exploitation.
The task force is a team comprised of investigators from Carmel, Fishers, Westfield, Noblesville, Hamilton County and Madison County Sheriff’s Departments and the Department of Homeland Security.
Fishermen’s Police Chief Ed Gebhart said more than 250 reports of child exploitation were made to the task force in 2021. These cases have increased nationwide since the start of the pandemic, according to Gebhart.
“I think we can all get together that night to talk about how to keep our kids safe and what we’re doing behind that door that no one’s allowed in behind that door because of the type of work they do,” Gebhart said.
The virtual briefing is scheduled for Wednesday, February 23 at 8 p.m. It can also be streamed live on the Fishermen’s Police Department Facebook page.
Gebhart says the information will be useful for even the most knowledgeable parents, adding that the warning signs of online child exploitation can be easy to miss.
“You think Snapchat and you think Facebook, but my daughter herself, someone contacted her through a game and tried to talk to her. So here I think I’m at- above all that and there is in my own house,” Gebhart said.
The task force has played a role in major federal cases, including a 2018 where a 37-year-old Texas man pretended to be a 15-year-old boy to obtain sex videos and photos of an underage girl in the ‘Indiana.
Gebhart says that while the goal is always more arrests, that’s not the only goal.
“[The task force is] more addicted to rescuing people and that’s the number they’re tracking, even more than the number of arrests, because there are so many victims behind every one of those arrests,” Gebhart said.