AIKEN COUNTY, S.C. (WJBF) — Child pornography cases are increasing across Aiken County. “We definitely saw an increase during COVID,” Maryann Burgess told NewsChannel 6’s Aiken Bureau Chief Shawn Cabbagestalk. “Children are at home they’re on their computers. They’re confined like the rest of the world,” she added.

Burgess is the Executive Director of the Child Advocacy Center of Aiken County and she’s also a former law enforcement officer. Because county leaders say child pornography cases have increased dramatically in the area, she says an additional investigator could help ease the burden. “I would completely understand the Sheriff’s office asking for that investigator because it’s so needed in today’s world where we’re a technology-driven society,” she said. “We need those people who can understand how to work those types of crimes and especially to protect our children,” she added.

This week, the sheriff made a request to add another pair of eyes to help with child porn cases. “What he was looking for it all added up to a quarter of a million dollars,” Aiken County Councilman Sandy Haskell said.

That money will be used for salary, benefits, and new gear.

Current data shows more than 400-thousand reports were submitted to cyber investigators of people suspected of having, making, and sending child porn. Thousands are believed to be trading illegal images at any given time. “The cases that [the sheriff’s office] run into this year, I think, so far exceeding what they did last year that seems to be the trend,” Haskell added.

When a crime has been committed against a child, Burgess’ organization springs into action. “We receive referrals from law enforcement and from the department of social services and we perform a forensic interview, forensic medicals, and then trauma-focused therapy for the child and any non-offending family members,” she said.

County leaders are now mulling over the budget to see what can be added and what could be taken out. “Nothing has been finalized. We are very attentive to what the sheriff needs and are trying to the best of our abilities to follow what he wants,” he said.

Council will hold weekly meetings to solidify the budget which begins July 1. Those meetings are open to the public. “Parents need to know what their kids are doing. So are they allowing their child to use that computer behind a closed door? Are they making sure the child is in an open space when they use that computer or cell phone? The internet could be a great thing for children, but it can also be a parents’ worst nightmare,” Burgess said.