Remarks as prepared for delivery:
Thank you, Francey [Hakes] – for your kind words, for your work in bringing us all together this afternoon, and – of course – for your outstanding leadership in implementing the National Strategy for Child Exploitation Prevention and Interdiction.
It’s a privilege to join Francey in welcoming all of our panelists and participants. I’m encouraged to see so many longtime allies and new partners in one place – eager to share best practices and fresh ideas, to think creatively and act collaboratively, and – ultimately – to take our efforts to prevent and reduce child exploitation to a new level.
Thank you all for taking part in today’s discussions – and for your contributions in advancing one of the Justice Department’s top priorities: protecting the safety, rights, and best interests of our children.
This work – of reaching out to children in need and at risk, of supporting victims, and of safeguarding our young people from exploitation, abuse, trafficking, sexual violence, and online threats – has never been more urgent. At every level of the Justice Department, it is – and it will remain – a top priority.
This commitment is yielding promising results. In recent years, investigations and prosecutions of child exploitation crimes have increased dramatically. And we’re working with law enforcement and government agencies – as well as nonprofit and advocacy organizations, and a variety of international partners – like never before. In rural areas, inner cities, tribal communities, and online – we’ve brought a record number of offenders to justice. We’ve launched a new, nationwide operation targeting the top 500 most dangerous, non-compliant sex offenders. And, just this summer, we announced the largest prosecution in history of individuals who participated in an online child exploitation enterprise.
But, unfortunately – at the same time – we’ve also seen an historic rise in the distribution of child pornography, in the number of images being shared online, and in the level of violence associated with child exploitation and sexual abuse crimes. Tragically, the only place we’ve seen a decrease is in the age of victims.
This is unconscionable – and it is unacceptable. Such an extraordinary challenge demands our most aggressive, innovative, and comprehensive possible response.
That’s what today’s summit is all about – expanding our network of partners, broadening our reach and expertise, and improving our ability to keep our children safe from harm. It’s also about keeping the promise that’s laid out in the National Strategy that the Justice Department submitted to Congress last year.
In developing this Strategy, we solicited ideas and sought expertise from advocates, victims, law enforcement officers, policymakers, and partners at every level of government and across the international community. Many of these partners are here today, and I’m grateful for their ongoing engagement. With their help, we created a Strategy that provided a comprehensive assessment of the threats at hand, as well as the effectiveness of current efforts to combat child exploitation and abuse. It also provided information on areas where we needed to act more aggressively – and more collaboratively.
Over the last year, this Strategy has provided a roadmap for our work – helping us to fuse cutting-edge technologies with traditional methods of law enforcement and recovery; to streamline our education, prevention and prosecution activities; to improve information sharing and cooperation; and to leverage limited resources.
Without question, I am proud of what’s been accomplished. But I am not satisfied. I recognize that we have more to do – and that we cannot do it alone.
To more effectively prevent and combat child exploitation and abuse, we need greater engagement – and not just from our traditional law enforcement, advocacy, and government partners. We need the help of behavioral experts, security and technology industry leaders, and other experts and specialists who can inform and strengthen our work.
That’s why the National Strategy demands that we keep expanding our network of partners. And it’s why the Justice Department will continue to call on those who share our concerns – as well as our commitment to progress – to join in our efforts to protect the children who need us most.
As we begin today’s discussions, not only do I welcome your involvement, I am counting on it. And I expect that your diverse perspectives – and specific recommendations – will help to guide and enhance the Department’s work in the days ahead.
Today, together, we are increasing our odds in the fight to protect our kids. We’re also raising awareness about the problem of child exploitation. And by bringing together so many different partners, we’re signaling that – when it comes to keeping our children from harm – a new era of collaboration has begun.
Thank you all for being part of this conversation and this work. Your presence here today gives me great hope about what we can accomplish together. And I look forward to hearing from – and working with – you all.