SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) — Officials with the Department of Justice say that “Project Safe Childhood”, a program enacted to combat child sexual exploitation in Utah, is continuing to operate at full speed in the state.

According to a news release, Project Safe Childhood, or PSC, was initiated in May of 2006, to raise the public level awareness of sexual predators within various communities and to further prosecute cases against these predators.

“While Utah has a history of issues of child exploitation cases, U.S. Attorney John W. Huber says that the pandemic has only added to the challenge of prosecuting new exploitation cases.

“While the pandemic has exacerbated the challenges in protecting children, there has been no slowdown in our efforts. Our investigations and prosecutions of new exploitation cases continue to move forward with determination,” Huber said.

According to a news release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Utah has prosecuted approximately 55 cases a year involving the production, possession, and distribution of child pornography or coercion of minors. These cases are a result of investigations conducted by the FBI’s Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force, which was formed in 2016, a news release added.

“Sadly, when it comes to the sexual exploitation and sex trafficking of children, there’s never a shortage of work for our special agents and partners. The FBI’s Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force in Utah, Idaho, and Montana receives and responds to hundreds of cases each year. As more kids are spending time online, the caseload is even greater right now,” said Special Agent in Charge Paul Haertel of the Salt Lake City FBI. “Parents and guardians need to keep a close eye on their kids’ online activities because any child, no matter the age or demographic, can be a victim. Keeping our children safe will always be a top priority for the FBI and our task force.”

Click here to download the ABC4 Utah News app for the first alerts on your phone. Sign up for the ABC4 Utah breaking news and daily newsletters.