WASHINGTON – Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales today delivered remarks at the Justice Department’s Project Safe Childhood conference on Department efforts to prosecute sex predators and protect children from sexual exploitation through Project Safe Childhood. He called upon Americans to report suspicious behavior and signs of abuse, and upon federal and state prosecutors to aggressively pursue sex predators. Project Safe Childhood, announced by the Attorney General in February 2006, creates a coordinated national response to the growing threat posed to America’s youth by online sexual exploitation. It brings federal, state and local law enforcement communities together in order to maximize resources and obtain the strictest penalties available against sex predators under federal and state law.
As technology advances and as the Internet becomes more accessible, the number of computer-facilitated sexual exploitation crimes committed against children — including child pornography offenses and “traveler” or enticement crimes — continues to grow.
“The sexual abuse and exploitation of children is one of the most disturbing crimes known to humankind,” said Attorney General Gonzales. “Much has been done to protect and defend them, but more must be done. Through Project Safe Childhood, the Department of Justice and our law enforcement partners are able to work together to pursue and prosecute sex predators with greater coordination and determination than ever before.”
In addition to its emphasis on increasing the prosecutions of sex predators, Project Safe Childhood works to increase public awareness about the presence of pedophiles on the Internet. Project Safe Childhood has partnered with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and The Ad Council on a public education campaign targeted to children and their parents. The campaign, including print, broadcast and web content, will debut in early 2007. Project Safe Childhood includes five key components:
*INTEGRATED FEDERAL, STATE AND LOCAL EFFORTS TO INVESTIGATE AND PROSECUTE CHILD EXPLOITATION CASES:
The U.S. Attorneys have partnered with ICAC Task Forces that exist within their districts and other federal, state and local law enforcement partners working in their districts to implement Project Safe Childhood. Working with these partners, the U.S. Attorneys have developed district-specific strategic plans to coordinate the investigation and prosecution of child exploitation crimes; to identify and rescue victims; and to coordinate local training, educational and awareness programs.
*MAJOR CASE COORDINATION BY THE CRIMINAL DIVISION:
The Department’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), in conjunction with the FBI’s Innocent Images Unit, has integrated the Project Safe Childhood Task Forces into pursuing local leads generated from CEOS major national operations.
*INCREASED FEDERAL INVOLVEMENT IN CHILD PORNOGRAPHY AND ENTICEMENT CASES: Given the beneficial investigative tools and stiffer punishments available under federal law, U.S. Attorneys and the federal investigative agencies have increased the number of sexual exploitation investigations and prosecutions. The goal is to ensure the worst offenders get the maximum amount of jail time possible.
*TRAINING OF FEDERAL, STATE AND LOCAL LAW ENFORCEMENT:
Members of the Project Safe Childhood Task Forces have attended training programs facilitated by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), the ICAC program and other ongoing programs, in order to be taught to investigate and prosecute computer-facilitated crimes against children, as well as to pursue leads from national operations and from NCMEC’s CyberTipline and Child Victim-Identification programs.
*COMMUNITY AWARENESS AND EDUCATIONAL PROGRAMS:
Project Safe Childhood has partnered with NCMEC and the ICAC Task Force program to raise awareness about the threat of online sexual predators and to provide the tools and information parents and youngsters need in order to report suspicious activity on the Internet. The public education campaign, featuring print, broadcast and web content, will debut in the spring of 2007.