COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – A recent uptick in crimes against children has local children exploitation groups sounding the alarm and urging parents to keep a close eye on their children and their technology usage.

In the last few weeks NBC4 has covered several cases of the exploitation of children.

In a most recent case, 22-year-old central Ohio firefighter Caden Woodward was arrested and charged this week for possessing or viewing child sex abuse material. He is now on paid administrative leave.

Last week, a 27-year-old Fairfield County man pleaded guilty to child pornography and sextortion crimes. Devin Bailey admitted to distributing child sex abuse material and using those images to extort an adult victim.

Just last month, Franklin County Public Defender Stephen Chinn was indicted on federal charges for possession of material depicting child abuse, he’s facing up to 25 years in prison.

Michael Weiner, a Sergeant with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office and a Commander with ICAC Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, said with the growth of access to technology comes an increase in the number of children becoming victims.

“We’ve certainly seen an uptick in exploitation cases,” Weiner said. 

But statistics from a national database explain it isn’t a disturbing trend only here in central Ohio.

The Center for Missing and Exploited Children tracks forms of child sexual exploitation.

In 2002 the center received just over 3,500 tips for reports of unsolicited obscene material sent to a child. By 2021, that number grew to around 5,100. By the year 2022 that number had ballooned to more than 35,000.

Another category – online enticement – has seen an increase of 82% in the number of tips reported 2021 to 2022 alone.

The center attributes sextortion as one of the contributing factors, a crime Sargent Weiner said his team is also seeing more and more of.

“Generally, this is where a kid sends out a picture that is inappropriate. The suspect on the other end will then try to extort that kid for either more pictures or money,” Weiner said. “If you’ve given them a cell phone or they are on the internet or gaming systems they really need to have that conversation to explain that there are bad actors out there.”