In recent years, there's been an explosion of child sexual abuse cases reported and prosecuted in Tehama County.
Tehama County assistant district attorney Matt Rogers said he’s never seen an increase like this in his nearly 15 years of working for the county.
“We've definitely seen a dramatic uptick in the number of sex assault cases specifically child molest over the last, I would have to say one and a half to two years,” Rogers said.
Back in January, Red Bluff Police arrested 50-year old Raymond Cruz of Red Bluff for allegedly abusing a child for a period of 10 years.
And in March, 40-year-old Andrew Michael Coffee also of Red Bluff was arrested by Tehama County Sheriff's deputies for attempting to have sex with a minor.
And that’s after Coffee was already on probation for arranging to meet a minor for sex through Craigslist.
Tehama County victims services coordinator Jeff Eldred said sadly cases like these are becoming more and more common.
“It seems like every week, we're getting a couple of new cases coming in and many of them with multiple victims,” Aldred said.
Rogers said the sheer number of cases they've seen lately has been a tax on their resources.
“These kinds of cases can be difficult to prosecute but at the same time, there is the reward if you will at the end of the case when oftentimes we're able to send the offender away for decades if not for life,” Rogers said.
But they have dedicated one prosecutor almost entirely to sex assault cases.
And in the last one and half to two years, the Tehama County District Attorney’s office has sentenced defendants to well over 400 years in prison.
But it can be difficult at times to prosecute as these crimes typically occur behind closed doors.
“People don't molest kids in front of witnesses,” Eldred said. “People don't sexually assault people in front of witnesses. And a lot of times, the only evidence you have is the victim's word about what happened. And thankfully we can get some prosecutions just off that.”
And Eldred said it's not just stranger danger parents need to teach to kids, because very rarely has that been the situation in cases he's seen.
“In my looking over all the cases, it's most often someone that they know,” Eldred said. “You know it's very rarely do you have a stranger doing something. It's most of the time people, family members or family friends that they know.”
In cases involving teens, they say social media and smartphones are partially to blame for the increase in reported child sex assault cases.
They say predators can easily send messages and solicit photos of teenagers posing as other teenagers.
“So I think social media definitely played a huge part in the increase in these cases,” Eldred said.
But Rogers said increased awareness and education have also played a role in the increase of people coming forward.
“I think it also has to do with increased outreach and awareness in schools,” he said. “And children are being taught and I think they're listening that this happens to you, you need to tell someone.”
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