Pulaski County, Mo. Sheriff's Department investigating more child sex crimes

WAYNESVILLE, Mo. -- In 2018, the Pulaski County Sheriff's Department investigated approximately 56 child sex cases.

This year, detectives have investigated between 75 to 80 cases, with nearly two months to go.

"That's at least nine or ten more cases, and that's nine or 10 new victims that we haven't had cases on," said Detective Sgt. Christopher Butler.

Sheriff Jimmy Bench doesn't think there's been an actual increase in incidents. He thinks victims are getting more comfortable reporting them.

"I think this is a situation that's been ongoing and unnoticed because people were afraid to talk about it," Bench told KY3/KSPR's Andrew Havranek.

Bench wanted to make it easier for victims to get justice.

When he took office in 2017, he doubled the number of detectives assigned to these cases from two to four Those detectives say it's their job to make the victim comfortable with the process.

"It's not every day that you have to, you have to go to us and say 'hey, my husband, my father is molesting my young girl.' That's where it takes the strength of the victim and the people reporting it to come forward," Butler said.

Detectives say a child might not talk about the abuse if it's happened to them.

But, if a parent suspects there child is a victim, detectives urge them to look for physical signs, like bruising and keep tabs on their behavior.

"They're not paying attention in school, they're misbehaving at school, they're doing inappropriate things in school. When they come home, they're being defiant to you, they're wetting the bed, or they're talking about sexual matter that the age appropriate shouldn't know," Butler explained.

Butler added all of those behavioral signs that could be a red flag for something more serious.

The sheriff's department says it doesn't think these crimes will ever go away completely, but is hopeful with more victims coming forward, child sex offenders will know they won't get away with it.