Nashua police arrested eight individuals Wednesday wanted for possessing and distributing child sexual abuse images.
The sweep comes as investigations into the sharing of illicit images of minors spiked during the pandemic, both locally and nationwide.
According to the Nashua Police Department, the eight cases are unrelated. Investigators say the men appear to have been collecting and sharing images prior to the COVID-19 outbreak and subsequent shuttering of the state’s economy.
“The behavior wasn’t just something that came up during the pandemic, it was behavior that was occurring before the pandemic,” said Adam Rayho, a detective with the Nashua Police. “And just became more prevalent during the pandemic with people being at home all the time.”
The state’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force estimates the number of tips received during the pandemic went up nearly four-fold during the lockdown, from an average of 60 investigations per month to approximately 200 investigations during the lockdown.
“We are seeing an increase everywhere,” said John Peracchi, commander of the state’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and a lieutenant with the Portsmouth Police Department. “Luckily things are starting to level off in New Hampshire right now.”
Suspected cases of child exploitation can be reported to local police departments, or through the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
Seven of the eight men arrested Wednesday were released on bail and will be arraigned August 20 in Hillsborough County Superior Court South. One man is being held without bail due to an alleged parole violation.