Elizabeth Stetson Gaylord shared this image of Baltimore orioles on top of a crepe myrtle at her home in Greenville

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Crimes against children

A Jan. 21 program from the Pitt County Coalition Against Human Trafficking will be highlighting a spike in internet crimes against children possibly resulting from an increase in internet use by youth due to the pandemic. The 9:30 a.m. virtual event will feature Tiffany Pate, senior analyst at the State Bureau of Investigation — Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce, who will unpack the alarming 2020 numbers and how these cases are investigated.

“It is with very little surprise that we have seen these numbers explode,” NC Stop Human Trafficking founder and coalition facilitator Pam Strickland said in a release about the event. “The FBI released a warning in May saying this is what would likely happen as more children went online for social connection and learning. While this spike is related to the pandemic, we must also be aware that online grooming by predators is only successful when caregivers are not empowered to understand grooming tactics and the ever-shifting digital landscape; when youth are not empowered to understand healthy relationships, boundaries and consent; and when social inequities and vulnerabilities are exploited.”

In 2019, the number of investigations amounted to 1,358. That number in 2020 as of October more than doubled to 3,132. In 2019, there were 4,930 tips received by the NC Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce. As of October, that number increased to 7,307. To attend this meeting, visit pccaht.org/2021meetingminutes

Energy assistance

Households can apply for the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program at www.epass.nc.gov through March 31. Applicants also may call the county Department of Social Services to apply by phone or print a paper application from www.epass.nc.gov to mail, fax or drop off at DSS. The seasonal program provides a one-time vendor payment to help eligible households pay their heating bills. Visit www.ncdhhs.gov/assistance/low-income-services/low-income-energy-assistance for information.

Crisis intervention

Households can apply for the Crisis Intervention Program online at www.epass.nc.gov through June 30. Applicants also may call the county Department of Social Services to apply by phone or print a paper application from www.epass.nc.gov to mail, fax or drop off at DSS. The year-round program assists individuals and families who are experiencing a heating or cooling related crisis. A household is considered in crisis if it is experiencing or is in danger of experiencing a life-threatening or health-related emergency and assistance is not available from another source. CIP applications will be accepted until June 30 or until funds are exhausted. Visit www.ncdhhs.gov/assistance/low-income-services/crisis-intervention-program.

Traffic safety grants

The N.C. Governor’s Highway Safety Program will accept grant applications to fund programs aimed at preventing traffic deaths and injuries on North Carolina roadways through Jan. 31. Grants are open to nonprofit organizations, local and state law enforcement, hospitals, state agencies and other groups proposing data-driven projects that advance traffic safety. They are awarded for the federal fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. Grants between $20,000 and $1 million have been awarded for projects that work to reduce impaired driving, encourage seat belt use, reduce speed-related fatalities, promote pedestrian and bicycle safety, advance motorcycle safety, promote child safety seats, and address related initiatives. Learn more on the Connect NCDOT Website or call 919-814-3650.

Contact Bobby Burns at baburns@reflector.com and 329.9572.