With the COVID-19 pandemic largely the focus of everyone in the Berkshires and around the state, Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington is reminding Berkshire residents that reporting child abuse is more important than ever.

Her office is asking the public to remain vigilant in reporting suspected child abuse.

The Berkshire District Attorney’s Office noticed a 52 percent decrease in reports of child abuse in the last two months.

See the details of the release below:

Berkshire DA’s Continues Efforts To Protect Vulnerable Children Despite Decrease In Child Abuse and Neglect Referrals

The Berkshire District Attorney’s Child Abuse Unit and partners in the multi-disciplinary Berkshire County Sexual Assault Intervention Network team remains in place to identify and hold perpetrators accountable while providing trauma informed treatment to children across the county even with a concerning decrease in child abuse reports amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Berkshire District Attorney’s Office noticed a 52 percent decrease in reports of child abuse in the last two months compared to this time last year and a 33 percent decrease in newly opened investigations since the start of the year.

Statewide, the Department of Children and Families reports a 51 percent decrease in child abuse reports.

The Berkshire District Attorney’s Office asks the public to be vigilant in reporting suspected child abuse and neglect.

“The most important job of all adults in our community is to protect our children from abuse and trauma. Children often cannot speak for or defend themselves and need trusted adults to protect them. Our office has a dedicated unit of prosecutors and victim witness advocates working in collaboration with other child protection agencies to create a community where children can grow and thrive,” District Attorney Andrea Harrington said.

“The reduced number of reports is concerning. The pandemic did not end child abuse. Our team remains as vigilant and dedicated as ever and we ask the public to help us identify suspected abuse.”

The Berkshire District Attorney’s Office investigates hundreds of cases of child abuse each year, prosecutes perpetrators, assists victims and their families in navigating the criminal justice system, makes referrals to community resources and conducts crime prevention programming.

The Berkshire District Attorney’s Office utilizes a Children’s Advocacy Center model in partnership with the Berkshire County Kids Place. The team consists of prosecutors, law enforcement, forensic interviewers, social workers from the Department of Children and Families, and mental and physical health professionals.

School and daycare personnel are the eyes and ears of our community and file the majority of reports to the Department of Children and Families. Schools, day cares, and camps have been closed, limiting interactions between children and trusted adults.

Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic led to increased job loss, substance use relapses, food insecurity, and other stressors.

The public should keenly be aware of and consider the following signs of child abuse and call the Department of Children’s At-Risk Hotline at 800-792-5200 immediately to report suspected abuse. Reports can be anonymous.

Physical appearance: signs of bruises, marks, injuries, poor hygiene, or attire

Environment: signs of violence, drug and alcohol abuse, or family dysfunction

Behavior and effect: change in mood or presentation, distress, or outcries of abuse

Engagement: changes in participation, interaction, and communication

Supervision: access to a responsible adult and their level of involvement.

Berkshire District Attorney Andrea Harrington’s office serves all 32 cities and towns in Berkshire County. The office represents the Commonwealth in more than 7,500 criminal cases per year in Berkshire Superior Court, three district courts, three juvenile courts, Massachusetts Appeals Court, and Supreme Judicial Court. The office works closely with the State Police Detective Unit assigned to the Berkshire District Attorney’s Office, the Berkshire Law Enforcement Task Force, and collaborates with local police departments across the county. A dedicated staff of more than 50 prioritizes public safety, empowering victims and witnesses through services and support, and building a safe community for everyone and especially the most vulnerable.